Jenner & Block has brought on Seth Agata, former executive director of the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, as a special counsel on its New York litigation team.
Agata was responsible for administering lobbying and public ethics laws in New York as head of the 14-member bipartisan ethics watchdog.
He was appointed to the commission in 2016. Under his direction, the group undertook reforms of the state’s first comprehensive lobbying regulations and revamped post-employment “revolving door” restrictions.
In his new position, Agata will work in Jenner & Block’s lobbying law and government ethics group, advising clients on matters related to lobbying, election and public ethics laws in New York and other states, as well as in the nation’s capital.
“His experience at the highest level of state government and knowledge of public ethics and lobbying law compliance, as well as his litigation skills, will be a tremendous benefit to clients,” Susan Kohlmann, Jenner & Block’s New York office managing partner and a member of the firm’s policy committee, said in a statement.
Agata, a former acting counsel to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, faced criticism at the public ethics commission from those who questioned the ability of a former Cuomo lawyer to remain impartial in monitoring the governor’s office for ethics lapses.
Agata announced that he would be stepping down from his post in May to join a private law firm, but declined to specify the firm at the time.
He said he wasn’t looking to make the switch to private practice but took the offer after Jenner & Block approached him.
“What made Jenner so interesting is that it has a national practice in the area I’ve been very interested in for a number of years,” he said. Because of revolving door regulations, Agata is barred from appearing before the JCOPE for two years. In the meantime, he’ll focus his work on compliance issues in other states, he said.
Prior to his work in the governor’s office, Agata served as counsel for the New York State Assembly from 2001 to 2010. He was also counsel for investigations in the New York State Comptroller’s office and an assistant district attorney.
Agata is the fourth lateral to join Jenner & Block’s New York office this year. He follows M&A lawyer Robert Rawn, who joined the firm’s corporate practice; Mélida Hodgson, a member of the international arbitration practice; and Charles Riely, a former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission official.
(Added information from interview with Agata in paragraphs eight and nine. )