Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Famed class action attorney William Lerach is stepping down from his firm as of August 31 in the midst of a drawn-out federal investigation of kickbacks paid to plaintiffs through his former firm, Milberg Weiss. Lerach broke away from Milberg Weiss in 2004 and moved to a new firm in which his name came first, at least until Labor Day when it will be become Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins. An e-mail to firm members, reprinted on the Wall Street Journal Law Blog (here), states in part:
As you know, I will be retiring in short order to resolve the investigation about alleged events at my former firm more than a decade ago – long before this firm was even a twinkle in the eye. Because the events in question do not involve this 3-year-old firm or any of you, my decision to step aside will ensure continuity and stability for the hundreds of clients who benefit from your stellar work. This will end the investigation. Despite my mistakes, I am immensely proud that together we built a firm without peer and never shied away from taking on the world’s most powerful and corrupt corporations. [Italics added]
That certainly sounds like someone who may be close to resolving the case by way of a plea bargain, which was offered by prosecutors a few months ago but turned down. References to moving on "to resolve the investigation," "end the investigation," and "my mistakes" convey a feeling of resignation that a conclusion to the criminal case is near. Lerach's purported rejection of the earlier plea offer came before another former Milberg Weiss partner, David Bershad, agreed to plead guilty and is cooperating in the government's investigation. That may impel Lerach to cut his own deal given the statement of facts in which Bershad admitted that Milberg Weiss partners contributed money and made secret cash payments to plaintiffs.
Lerach has not lost his edge, of course, beginning his e-mail by noting that "[n]ow that I have outlasted Karl Rove, John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzalez, it is time for me to retire." I suspect this may be the first time we have seen Lerach's name linked to these three stalwarts of the Bush Administration. (ph)