Suzanne M. Dugan is Special Counsel to Cohen Milstein and leads the firm’s Ethics & Fiduciary Counseling practice, a practice she helped found within the Securities Litigation & Investor Protection practice group.
Ms. Dugan joined Cohen Milstein in 2011, following more than 20 years of service in government, first as counsel to and acting director of the New York State Ethics Commission and then as Special Counsel for Ethics for the Office of the New York State Comptroller. Her service in government and experience as an in-house counsel offer the broad and unique perspective of a regulator and the understanding of an in-house counsel.
From this unique vantage, Ms. Dugan counsels pension funds on fiduciary responsibility, ethical duties, strategic governance and compliance issues. She consults with governmental entities and other clients on design, implementation, management and assessment of comprehensive ethics programs. She also assists in conducting investigations and structuring recommendations, and provides expert legal and consulting services to law firms retained to conduct special reviews, providing an additional layer of oversight and accountability.
Ms. Dugan brings her experience gained from having served as ethics counsel to the third largest public pension fund in the country to advise and counsel pension fund trustees and senior managers on issues and challenges, providing collaborative and creative solutions for pension funds as they navigate changing economic challenges and organizational requirements.
At Cohen Milstein, Ms. Dugan has provided ethics counsel to some of the largest public pension funds, and serves as compliance counsel to another top 10 fund, among others. She has also conducted ethics and fiduciary training for the boards of trustees of some of the country’s largest public pension funds. In addition, she serves as counsel to a number of large municipalities across the country, where she evaluates and investigates complaints of unethical conduct, provides objective and independent guidance and works to ensure a culture of ethical leadership.
Ms. Dugan is a frequent lecturer and panelist at conferences and forums addressing ethics and fiduciary issues in the public and nonprofit sectors, including pension funds, bringing with her an understanding of ethical issues born out of practical experience as well as scholarly pursuits. She has served as an adjunct professor, teaching a course on Government Ethics, and writes frequently on ethics, fiduciary responsibilities of pension trustees and the role of pension fund attorneys.
She serves on the Fiduciary and Plan Governance Steering Committee of the National Association of Public Pension Attorneys, a professional organization dedicated to providing legal educational opportunities and informational resources to its member attorneys. Ms. Dugan also is an active member of the Council on Government Ethics Laws, an international organization dedicated to issues involving governmental ethics, elections, campaign finance, lobby laws and freedom of information.
Ms. Dugan began her career as a judicial clerk with the Appellate Division, Third Department, of the New York State Supreme Court. She also served as an administrator at Albany Law School, as well as the pro bono Legal Director of a not-for-profit in the Albany area. She currently is a member of the Board of Directors of her local Planned Parenthood affiliate and an elected Trustee of the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library.
Ms. Dugan attended Siena College, graduating magna cum laude, and earned her J.D. cum laude from Albany Law School of Union University. In 2014, she received the distinguished Burton Award for Legal Writing. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute, where she is a member of the Consultative Group on Government Ethics, among others.
- Fiduciary & Plan Governance Steering Committee, National Association of Public Pension Attorneys
- Member Consultative Group, Principles of Government Ethics, American Law Institute
- Member, Conference of Government Ethics Law
- Board of Directors, Planned Parenthood
- Elected Trustee of the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library
- Delegate, Judicial Nominating Convention, Fourth Judicial District (NY)