Former state assistant attorney general and Cigna privacy officer Matthew Fitzsimmons has rejoined colleagues from the Attorney General’s Office to become part of the new state attorneys general team at Hartford’s Shipman & Goodwin.
Fitzsimmons, 39, most recently Cigna’s lead cybersecurity counsel, joins former boss and immediate past Attorney General George Jepsen in the new practice group, along with immediate past Deputy Attorney General Perry Zinn Rowthorn. All three are now partners at Shipman & Goodwin, with Jepsen’s role likened to that of a player-manager in professional sports. Fitzsimmons also becomes a member of Shipman & Goodwin’s data privacy and protection practice group.
A week into the new job, Fitzsimmons said he was excited to be reunited with Jepsen, who Fitzsimmons said has been at the forefront of cybersecurity issues in Connecticut for the past decade.
“It’s been fun, interesting and exciting so far,” Fitzsimmons said of the new position. “It’s kind of a different role. I said to George that after 11 years covering cybersecurity issues in the Attorney General’s Office and a year and a half at Cigna—and having more work than you think you can possibly do on your desk in the morning—this is a bit different. This is coming from a new starting point.”
While Fitzsimmons will invariably end up defending companies against actions that come out of his old government office, he said doesn’t see his new role as adversarial. “While we may be sitting on opposite sides of the courtroom, I still get along very well with my former colleagues, and the ones who work in the privacy area are the ones who understand it’s not just a question of right or wrong. There’s a whole lot in the middle,” he said.
Connecticut faces the same privacy issues that communities around the country and the world confront every day, Fitzsimmons said, but different states are handling the issues in different ways. California’s Consumer Privacy Act, for instance, taking effect in 2020, will give consumers the right to review all information that is collected on them, with the right to refuse collection, sue for unauthorized data use and to delete data they’ve posted, among other provisions. In Illinois, the Biometric Information Privacy Act has been on the books for more than a decade, imposing limitations on companies that use data such as fingerprints and facial scans.
“Connecticut doesn’t have its own version of the California Consumer Privacy Act, but I know some people are considering it,” Fitzsimmons said. “People are asking if Connecticut is going to offer the same protections. I think these issues are pervasive. People are really starting to pay attention to what happens to their personal information, when they can protect themselves and what rights they have. I think that’s one of the principals of the California law. It’s not inherently wrong to have the information, but people need to know what you’re going to do with it.”
At Cigna, Fitzsimmons handled complex privacy and information protection matters at the state and federal levels and led the firm’s incident response team in investigations, breaches and incident management. That included data privacy issues resulting from the Cigna-Express Scripts merger. Before that, Fitzsimmons spent 11 years as an assistant attorney general, first in the Consumer Protection Department and on the Privacy Task Force, then heading up the Privacy and Data Security Department, the first state office of its kind in the country.
“Matt understands the privacy issues across all business sectors as well as anyone in the country,” said Jepsen, who selected Fitzsimmons for the Attorney General’s Office position. “He is a thoughtful problem solver. One of his best attributes is his ability to lead bipartisan coalitions to tackle complex issues. He is admired by state attorneys general across the country and respected by privacy leadership at major corporations as well. Perry and I are thrilled Matt is joining us at Shipman & Goodwin.”
Shipman & Goodwin managing partner Alan Lieberman also expressed enthusiasm. “We are excited to add Matt to our interdisciplinary team of experienced privacy and data security attorneys to advise our clients, whether it involves compliance, investigations or any related privacy and data security matter,” he said. “Matt’s experience in both government and in a major corporation makes him invaluable in understanding the issues from multiple perspectives.”
The state attorneys general practice group represents businesses of all sizes in actions brought by government agencies and state attorneys general throughout the country. The data privacy and protection practice group helps clients secure data, respond to breaches and comply with disclosure laws. Fitzsimmons reasoned that parties on all sides generally try to protect consumers and avoid disasters. In that sense, he said, his new job will be a continuation of work he did for the attorney general.
“I think in a lot of ways it was educating the business community as to what the Attorney General’s Office expected of them, and educating consumers not just about what companies were doing but what their rights are,” Fitzsimmons said. “We really tried not to play ‘hide the ball,’ and let people know what the Connecticut laws are that we enforce and make sure we are all working together toward the common end. I think the biggest lesson from all of that, by and large, is that businesses really wanted to do the right thing.”
Fitzsimmons added that he feels returning to work with Jepsen and Rowthorn adds up to forming a strong time with shared values. “I really do feel we’ve both gotten along very well and enjoyed working together,” he said. “I think George gets just as much as I do that there are two sides to each of these stories. I think having a common understanding definitely helps us when we’re trying to solve problems.”
Fitzsimmons earned his law degree with honors from the University of Connecticut School of Law, where he also served as an adjunct professor teaching oral advocacy and brief writing for the school’s moot court program. He received a Connecticut Law Tribune New Leader in the Law award in 2012 and a 40 Under 40 award from Connecticut Magazine in 2014. When he’s not at work, he coaches Little League baseball in Windsor.