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 after more than 20 years of service in government, including as Special Counsel for Ethics for the Office of the New York State Comptroller, and as counsel to and acting director of the New York State Ethics Commission. Her service and experience in government offer the broad and unique perspective of a regulator and the understanding of an in-house counsel.
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.
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 has worked with public pension fund and municipal government clients in the following capacities:
- Service as Fiduciary Counsel, Ethics Counsel, and Compliance Counsel to public pension plans from coast to coast, including some of the largest institutional investors in the country.
- Providing ethics and fiduciary training to boards of trustees, designing and delivering educational programs for sophisticated public pension plans and government entities.
- Outside Ethics Officer to municipalities across the country, evaluating and investigating complaints of unethical conduct, providing objective and independent guidance, and working to ensure a culture of ethical leadership.
Ms. Dugan 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. She is a member of the Hearing Officer panel for the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
Ms. Dugan is a frequent lecturer 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. In 2014, Ms. Dugan won the Burton Award, the country’s most prestigious legal writing award run in association with the Library of Congress, for her Bloomberg BNA article, “Ethics and Fiduciary Issues for Public Pension Plans: Lessons Learned".
Ms. Dugan is also an active member of her community. She is currently an elected Trustee of her local public library. In addition, she serves as a member of the Governance Committee of a Planned Parenthood affiliate, following many years of service on the Board of Directors. She also previously served as the pro bono legal director of a not-for-profit in the Albany area.
Ms. Dugan is an elected member of the American Law Institute, where she is a member of the Consultative Group on Government Ethics.
Ms. Dugan began her career as a judicial clerk with the Appellate Division, Third Department, of the New York State Supreme Court. She graduated magna cum laude from Siena College and earned her J.D. cum laude from Albany Law School of Union University.
- Member, Hearing Officer Panel, New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics
- 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)