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Brendan McGuire

When it comes to fending off a public corruption case, it doesn’t hurt to have a lawyer who has friends in the Southern District. 


  • Prosecutor, United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York
  • Attorney, WilmerHale
  • Chief Counsel, City Hall


  • Attorney, WilmerHale
  • Private lawyer for Eric Adams amidst federal probe into campaign fundraising

Brendan McGuire is a cop’s cop. His grandfather was in the NYPD, and his own father was the police commissioner under Mayor Ed Koch. As a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York from 2005 to 2016, McGuire ran its public corruption unit. There, he pursued cases against City bureaucrats and politicians who had blurred legal lines, including a Bronx City Councilmember (a case that hinged on a fraudulent $177 bagel receipt), and a Brooklyn State Senator who took over $1 million in bribes from the health care industry.

In March 2021, before the mayoral primary, McGuire wrote in a Daily News op-ed citizens of New York should demand the future mayor of New York City “disavow the use of non-profit entities to fundraise and advocate for administration priorities” and “disclose all prior and current financial connections between senior members of the administration and any entity lobbying or otherwise doing business with the city.” In recent years, then-Borough President Eric Adams was using his nonprofit One Brooklyn Fund to advocate for his own priorities. McGuire went on to join the Adams transition team and City Hall as chief counsel months after publishing the piece. Yet while McGuire was at City Hall, the mayor’s chief of staff left his post after just a year and then immediately began consulting businesses that had business with the City.

McGuire himself seemed surprised by what he saw happening in City Hall. When asked by City & State’s Jeff Coltin whether it would have been a conflict of interest if former Chief of Staff Frank Carone had actively solicited business while still in City Hall, McGuire responded, “he was not actively soliciting clients while chief of staff.” Carone himself then had to take the embarrassing step of correcting McGuire’s statement, making clear that Carone was “negotiating” with potential clients while in City Hall (just not on “any particular matters”). During the same interview, McGuire claimed that the mayor wasn’t using City lawyers to fight a ticket for a rat infestation at one of Adams’s properties, when in fact, a City lawyer had filed a motion to vacate the ticket on the mayor’s behalf.

In a statement, McGuire told Hell Gate that “any suggestion that my prior statements were inaccurate or inconsistent with those of others within the administration at the time is false and based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the facts.”

McGuire wasn’t in City Hall for very long—he dipped after less than two years—but while there he was a mouthpiece for the Adams administration’s insistence that they weren’t shirking the right-to-shelter mandate, which guarantees homeless New Yorkers a place to sleep each night, even as they began trying to roll it back. When migrants began arriving in New York City without any place to live, it didn’t take long for McGuire to trying to find a way around the binding settlement that set the policy. 

“What we’re talking about is the reality that this is completely unforeseen. This rate of influx of people into the system, and so it’s irresponsible not to reassess how the system works,” McGuire said back in September 2022, only a few months into the surge of migrants into the city.

By the time McGuire left City Hall in the summer of 2023, the City was no closer to getting out of its shelter requirements. McGuire also spearheaded an effort to get attorneys from private law firms to work for the City on a pro bono basis, with their firms footing their salaries. The program aimed to cut costs and stem the bleeding from attorneys quitting that, according to union reps, had to do with low pay and  City Hall’s stringent “return to work” requirements. The union representing City attorneys blasted the program, and it ultimately yielded just eight pro bono attorneys in its inaugural year. 

After McGuire returned to WilmerHale, the law firm he had worked for between stints in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and City Hall, he didn’t stay away from Adams for long. Shortly after the FBI raided the home of Adams’s top fundraiser Brianna Suggs, McGuire announced he was representing the mayor and his campaign during the investigation. McGuire would now be playing defense against the exact unit he had previously led at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. 

“Anyone suggesting that my current representation of the Mayor in his personal capacity and my representation of his 2021 campaign is in any way improper does not understand the applicable law or the facts,” McGuire wrote in response to questions from Hell Gate about his representation of the mayor on this private matter. 

Back in the heady days of 2021, before his time at City Hall, McGuire wrote, “Violations of the public trust are almost never spur-of-the-moment errors in judgment. They are more frequently the result of continuous indifference, or even complicity, at the top.”

So how high does this all go, Brendan? And should those at the top actually be held responsible? 

McGuire, in a statement, defended his time at the mayor’s office: “I remain proud to have served the City in this administration.”

Last updated: 12/18/2023

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