The Last (No Really, The LAST) Shoe Drops
Paul T. Selzer -- the final defendant in the government's bribery case against law firm, Milberg Weiss -- plans to plead guilty in relation to the Milberg Weiss kickback investigation.
Milberg Weiss Expert Witness, Torkelson, Pleads Guilty to Perjury
Selzer was originally indicted in the probe back in June of 2005.
Details of Selzer's plea agreement are expected this morning. Selzer, a California attorney, had been one of the key figures at the heart of the government's investigation into Milberg Weiss. securities class action lawsuits against a variety of companies.
It was alleged that Selzer helped Milberg funnel payments to his client, Seymour Lazar
, another attorney and reoccurring lead plaintiff for Milberg. It is expected that Selzer get probation and avoid jail time but be required to pay a $250,000 fine.
If you've hit the snooze button a few too many times in the course of the Milberg case and want a refresher, you might want to check out our recap of the Milberg investigation
, penned on the eve of the firms indictment back in May of 2006.
Labels: Bill Lerach, Melvyn Weiss, Milberg Weiss, Paul Selzer, Seymour Lazar, Steven Cooperman
Milberg Strategic Errors Risk the Survivial of the Firm
John B. Torkelson is already serving time
, but the former star expert witness (he billed $60 million in expert fees between 1993 and 1996) still found himself pleading guilty this past week
on perjury charges...
Essentially Torkelson like any other expert had to attest to his independence each time he served as an expert. To protect this independence law firms are forbidden from paying experts on a contingency basis: i.e. - if they win. But that is exactly the type of arrangement Torkelson had over possibly hundreds of cases, including very many with what this press release wimpily refers to as
a law firm "with a principle office in New York."
Now, most people who'd bother to visit The Daily Caveat
might recognize this as a probable reference to Milberg Weiss and the phrasing as how that firm was referred to in the government investigation of class action litigation kickbacks prior to being officially named in the ensuing indictment. But a relationship between Torkelson and Milberg isn't exactly news.
We wrote about the connection and Torkelson's significance to the brewing Milberg indictment three years ago
. Torkelson, aside from whatever inappropriate payment arrangements
that he may have had with Milberg, was also involved in the AHI Healthcare lawsuit, which presented a perfect storm of informants for the Feds including involved parties: Torkelson himself, fraudster Steven Cooperman
and Milberg alum turned mortal enemy, Alan Schulman
Labels: Alan Schulman, John Torkelson, Milberg, Milberg Weiss, Steven Cooperman
Lerach Guilty Plea: To Serve 12 to 24 Months
Great piece from The Recorder at Law.com
. Lots of detail from the 7 or so year history of the Milberg investigation that may have slipped your mind, along with a detailing of some strategic missteps by Milberg that may end up costing the firm everything.
Of course, for a refresher on the investigation, all you need to do is click the tags below. There was a huge flurry of news coverage back in and around January '06 at right about the time Lazar was indicted. And The Daily Caveat
Labels: Bill Lerach, Lerach, Melvyn Weiss, Milberg, Milberg Weiss, Seymour Lazar, Steven Cooperman
Bill Lerach Retirement Date Announced
It is being widely reported today that William Lerach is expected to accept a plea bargain
in connection with the continuing kickback investigation into his former firm, Milberg Weiss. While Lerach had yet to be formally faced with any charges, it has been long assumed that he was one of the unnamed attorneys
mentioned throughout the government's case against Milberg.
The word coming in from all over creation is that Lerach will accept a guilty plea on one count of conspiracy for which he would face a sentence of 12 to 24 months and an $8 million fine. It is widely known that Lerach and his lawyers have been negotiating with federal prosecutors for some time now and this purported agreement apparently reflects the outcome of those talks. A judge would still have give final approval to the deal.
Lerach would be the second former Milberg attorney to plead guilty in connection with the case. The other would be indicted former partner David Bershad, who plead guilty back in July to similar charges. Steven Schulman, a third attorney from Milberg continues to deny kickback-related charges, as does the firm itself.
Please step back and allow the dancing on the grave to begin. Overlawyered
, I'm looking at you. Point of Law
, don't disappoint me now.
Personally, I'm biased. I'll admit it. I've worked in product safety and consumer advocacy. I also cut my teeth as an investigator working on too many securities class action lawsuits not to have my sympathies with Lerach and the plaintiffs' bar. Frankly, I can count the number of cases where something significant wasn't
found - probably on one hand. And yet clearly you must
play by the rules, rules which it seems were broken.
Of couse, the guilty plea isn't what burned Lerach's rep. Even before the kickback case got going in earnest (about 6 years into the 7 year investigation) Lerach was a already a polarizing figure.
His tactics over the year have done little to endear him to the other side of the aisle, but his success on behalf of investors have also not been insignificant.
The legal profession might be a bit dirtier for Lerach's influence and, lets call it zealous advocacy
, but you can't tell me that business isn't also a little cleaner as a result. I won't mourn his rightful prosecution but I don't plan on celebrating it either.
Labels: Bill Lerach, David Bershad, Lerach, Milberg, Milberg Weiss, Seymour Lazar, Steven Cooperman, Steven Schulman
Lerach Retirement - The Speculation Continues
In a statement released earlier in the week
the firm of Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins announced that effective August 31st they would be dropping "Lerach" from their name. This move signals the expected retirement of firm co-founder and big gun (arguably the biggest gun in class action litigation), William S. Lerach.
Bill Lerach has spend the last year or so increasingly dogged by the results of a federal investigation into he and his former colleagues at plaintiff firm Milberg Weiss. After seven years of digging the probe heated up this year as authorities turned up the heat on key witnesses like former Milberg lead plaintiffs; retired entertainment attorney, Seymour Lazar and and the colorful eye doctor, art dealer and insurance fraudster, Steven Cooperman.
Since then we've seen indictments, resignations and, just perhaps, the end of an era. Lerach has yet to be indicted himself and may never be, but he remains one of the biggest fish in the case and - no doubt - the one prosecutors were looking to land all along. Amid all the speculation over whether an indictment of Lerach would be forthcoming murmers started about a potential retirement, one that might spare his current firm should Lerach be prosecuted.
It appears that August 31st will be the date
Lerach, with typical brass, had this to say, “I have appreciated the opportunity to fight for the victims of corporate fraud. However, I realize that my success has made me a target,” Mr. Lerach said in a statement. “These allegations have proven to be personally time-consuming, and I have decided to focus single-mindedly on putting the matter behind me once and for all.”
Labels: Bill Lerach, kickbacks, Lerach, Milberg, Milberg Weiss, Seymour Lazar, Steven Cooperman
Seymour Lazar, Serial Milberg Weiss Plaintiff, Angles to Avoid Indictment on Grounds of Bad Health
The New York Times continues to ponder
what exactly we can discern from the purported retirement of famed plaintiff attorney, Bill Lerach
. The bane of the Overlawyered
set, Lerach made his name at securities class action juggernaut, Milberg Weiss. After a falling out with Milberg's founder Melvin Weiss, Lerach broke out on his own in 2004 four.
Obviously the last few months haven't been stellar for Milberg, what with partners under indictment and a firm-wide investigation ongoing into the use of kickback payments to compensate lead plaintiffs for participating in the firm's class actions. Speculation is well under way that Lerach's departure may mean that the seven year investigation into his former firm is finally catching up to him.
While no one in the know
is talking just yet, the NYT speculates that a Lerach resignation could be a signal of a looming deal with federal prosecutors, one that would spare his firm should indictments start raining down. For sure, deals are being thrown around left and right
at the moment, but none so far that seem to favor Lerach.
Last week, former Milberg partner David Bershad struck his own deal with federal prosecutors, pleading guilty to some of the charges against him. The question is, in exchange for what - and whether the second indicted Milberg partner, Steven Schulman follow suit. There is even word that Milberg Weiss is seeking a firm-wide deal
Whatever the outcome, no one is calling any of these maneuverings good
for Lerach and many are linking the dealings to talk of Lerach's retirement...and while the former partners threaten to do each other in, rival securities firms are moving in to pick up the slack
Labels: Bill Lerach, David Bershad, kickbacks, Melvyn Weiss, Milberg Weiss, Steven Cooperman, Steven Schulman
Milberg Investigation Inches Closer to Lerach With Guilty Plea From Serial Plaintiff, Steven Cooperman
79 year old Seymour Lazar was indicted in June 2005 by federal prosecutors in hot pursuit of class action giant Milberg Weiss. Lazar was accused of receiving kickbacks from Milberg in exchange for serving repeatedly as lead plaintiff in the law firm's class action suits.
Unlike others in similarly uncomfortable positions, Lazar steadfastly refused to deal or talk. Now, as Lazar's trial is gearing up a series of hearings have been scheduled, and the first already concluded, to determine whether the ailing almost-octogenarian can reasonably withstand the rigors of the courtoom.
For further details on the Lazar trial, check out the New York Sun
In related news, former Milberg partner and one of the individuals named in the firm's "kickback" indictment, Steven Schulman, has asked that the charges against him be dismissed
. Schulman, along with former Milberg partner David Bershad faces charges including conspiracy, mail fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice and tax violation . Schulman requested the dismissal of charges based on the claim that shareholders in lawsuits where lead plaintiffs received kickbacks suffered no actual harm.
For background on all of the above shenanigans, check out the tags below, which will take you to The Daily Caveat's
past coverage of the long in coming Milberg indictment and all the colorful players it involves...
Labels: David Bershad, kickbacks, Melvyn Weiss, Milberg, Milberg Weiss, money laundering, Seymour Lazar, Steven Cooperman, Steven Schulman
Milberg Attorneys Plead Not Guilty on 20 Count Indictment
Steven Cooperman is a colorful character. Eye doctor, art dealer bitter divorcee and serial securities litigation plaintiff for the biggest firm in the business, the embattled Milberg Weiss
. And did I mention insurance fraudster? Well that too...Convicted in 2000 of insurance fraud
via faked art theft and facing years in prison, Cooperman offered information to prosecutors about Milberg's alleged kickback payments to selected lead plaintiffs in their securities class action cases. In exchange, Cooperman was hoping for the soft touch from federal prosecutors. The deal that Cooperman struck remains under seal.
Cooperman's information on Milberg's practices was seconded by Richard Purtich, a Los Angeles insurance lawyer who claimed that he had personally been the conduit for millions in payments from Milberg to Cooperman. Cooperman, in his own divorce proceedings had himself seperately admitted taking payments from Purtich's hand.
In his divorce testimony, Cooperman also mentioned two direct meetings with Bill Lerach, the former Milberg star who has so far remained untainted by the investigation and indictment of his former firm. Cooperman claimed that on one occasion Lerach personally gave him an enevlope stuffed with $16,000 in cash.
One case in particular in which Cooperman had served as the lead plaintiff proved to be of special interest to investigators: the 1995 AHI Healthcare shareholder class action. Former Milberg partner Alan Schulman
, who has been openly hostile to the Milberg's conduct was the team leader on the AHI case. Schulman is known to be cooperating
with investigators, giving prosecutors special insight into the case.
This week Cooperman plead guilty to taking more than $6 million in illegal kickbacks
from Milberg Weiss and the 50 some odd pages of documentation filed indicates that prosecutors are closing on on Lerach. Court documents filed earlier this week make specific reference to "Partner B," the unnamed individual in the Milberg indictment long believed to be Bill Lerach, placing him at the center of the kickback scheme.
Lerach's lawyers are playing tough
, but this can't be good news. Expected, but still not good...
Labels: Bill Lerach, Melvyn Weiss, Milberg, Milberg Weiss, securities, Steven Cooperman
kickback probe continues, this time court-side. Milberg partners, currently on leave, David J. Bershad
and Steven G. Schulman
both made their first appearance in an L.A. court room on Friday. Each was released on $1million bail and scheduled to appear on Monday to enter their respective pleas. Details follow on yesterday's L.A. court proceedings from The Mercury News
. The article is also a decent summary of the happenings to date in the Milberg kickback probe:
Law firm, partners, plead not guilty to federal charges in LA
July 17, 2006
A top class-action law firm and two of its partners pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of secretly paying more than $11 million in kickbacks to get people to take part in shareholder lawsuits. Also pleading not guilty in federal court were Seymour M. Lazar, who is accused of acting as a paid plaintiff in some of the firm's cases, and Paul T. Selzer, who is charged with laundering money on Lazar's behalf.
In a 20-count indictment handed down in May, prosecutors alleged that Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman, along with partners David J. Bershad and Steven G. Schulman, secretly paid Lazar and others since 1984 to act as plaintiffs in class-action suits against major corporations.
Federal prosecutors alleged that secret kickback arrangements allowed the firm to be among the first to file lawsuits on behalf of shareholders and secure the lucrative position as lead plaintiffs' counsel. The indictment also alleged that "the paid plaintiffs purchased the securities at issue anticipating that the securities would decline in value, in order to position themselves to be named plaintiffs in securities fraud class actions and to obtain kickbacks" from the firm and others.
All the individual defendants were in court to enter their pleas except Lazar, who was unable to attend for medical reasons. Bershad and Schulman are on leave from the firm.
The case, which is the result of an ongoing federal investigation, has already resulted in plea deals with two people allegedly involved in the payoff schemes. Retired real estate mortgage broker Howard Vogel agreed in April to plead guilty to one count of making a false declaration before a court and admitted to receiving $2.5 million in kickbacks from Milberg Weiss in connection with class actions in which he was the plaintiff.
Los Angeles attorney Richard Purtich agreed in May to plead guilty to a federal tax offense by acting as an intermediary through which Milberg Weiss paid his former client Steven G. Cooperman more than $2.5 million in fees for acting as plaintiff in several class actions.
The firm denies any wrongdoing. In a statements released after Monday's arraignment, Bershad's attorney, Robert Luskin, said the indictment "is a disgrace and the charges are utterly baseless," and the firm said it is "confident that we will be fully vindicated"...
Read the full Mercury News article here
. And if needbe, catch up on the story by reading some of our past coverage
Labels: David Bershad, Howard Vogel, hulman, kickbacks, Melvyn Weiss, Milberg, Milberg Weiss, money laundering, Steven Cooperman