Thursday, November 15, 2012

William Lerach In Trouble

Nor have I seen any mention on the various law blogs about this major criminal case indicting one of America's biggest law firms.

I've never held a high opinion of William Lerach, one of the participants in this scandal, whose specialty has been suing corporations after their stock goes down, claiming that they officers had withheld information to mislead investors. I'm not saying that there aren't such situations, but my impression was always that Lerach was suing everytime a company's stock fell--and this article from Fortune makes it clear that Lerach and the other principals involved in these suits, were engaged in highly dishonest practices to file these suits:
(Fortune Magazine) -- For decades, few things have inspired as much fear and loathing in the executive suites of corporate America as the law firm of Milberg Weiss and the two outsized personalities who ruled the place, Mel Weiss and Bill Lerach. Through creativity and ruthlessness, they transformed the humble securities class-action lawsuit into a deadly weapon.

Always, Milberg Weiss cast itself as the champion of the little guy. In media interviews Lerach has spoken evocatively about fighting for the honest, struggling blue-collar worker who, through no fault of his own, had lost his hard-earned savings to corporate perfidy. The firm boasts of having collected $45 billion for cheated investors since its founding in 1965.

But somewhere along the way, the work made its ruling partners a little like the CEOs they sued. In an especially profitable year, both Weiss and Lerach personally made more than $16 million. Weiss, 71, is a high roller at casinos who collects Picassos, owns a five-acre waterfront estate on Oyster Bay, Long Island, and has a vacation condo in Boca Raton.

Weiss and Lerach have also found themselves in the cross hairs of federal prosecutors. In the most extraordinary federal case now afoot in the land, Milberg Weiss has been indicted for allegedly paying three plaintiffs $11.4 million in illegal kickbacks in about 180 cases spanning 25 years - and then repeatedly lying about it to the courts.

The government says Milberg kept paying kickbacks into 2005, long after the firm knew it was under investigation. Name partners David Bershad, 66, and Steven Schulman, 55, have also been charged. (Both have pleaded not guilty, as has the firm.) The criminal probe has triggered an exodus of lawyers and clients. Once a veritable lawsuit factory - the firm averaged more than one new case a week during 2005 - Milberg has filed just a handful of suits in the five months since the bombshell landed.
It is a very long article, well worth reading, just because the personalities involved are a rogue's gallery of what I have long suspected many plaintiff's attorneys to be: greedy; dishonest; immoral; and stupid. Oh yeah, and big contributors to the Democratic Party. The case started with a domestic violence call, which soon led to a stolen Picasso and Monet--which were not really stolen, so that an opthamologist to the stars could claim the insurance money:

The whole story is fascinating, and we learn that Lerach and fellow ambulance-chasers are extortionists in suits (which surprises me not in the least).  As I said, well worth reading in full. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Democratically-controlled Congress pass a law making most of these crimes lawful.

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