Friday, February 2, 2007
The prosecution of plaintiffs class action firm Milberg Weiss and two of its partners took another turn when Steven Cooperman admitted to accepting payments from the firm for serving as the representative plaintiff in class actions. His guilty plea includes an admission to accepting $175,000 from "Partner B," widely speculated to be former Milberg Weiss partner William Lerach, who split away from the firm in 2004 to form Lerach Coughlin. It has been noted that Cooperman is an eminently impeachable witness, having served time for insurance fraud and then prosecuted for breaching his plea agreement by conducting another fraud (involving forged doctors signatures on health insurance forms) while in prison -- how often will he be asked "Which time were you lying?" on cross-examination? Moreover, his guilty plea in the Milberg Weiss case effectively admits that he lied to the courts about not receiving any remuneration for serving as the representative plaintiff. A story in The Recorder (here) has a telling quote from Cooperman's attorney, who asserts that his client has "been 100 percent truthful with the government as to Milberg Weiss." Not much of an endorsement.
While there is considerable speculation that prosecutors may be "closing in" on Lerach and his former partner, Mel Weiss, who has been identified as "Partner A" in other plea documents, it is hard to conceive the government building a case around the testimony of the defendants who have entered guilty pleas already, all of whom have a checkered past, particularly Cooperman. I suspect that, unless the government can obtain incriminating information from someone inside Milberg Weiss, or cooperation from one of the firm's former partners charged in the indictment, it will be difficult to think that a breakthrough will occur that leads to charges against Lerach and Weiss after nearly seven years of investigation. (ph)