Lerach: Kickbacks and Campaign Cash

By February 15, 2008Briefly Legal

Not to pile on today, but this bit of analysis of William Lerach, the king of class-action kickbacks, was tough and accurate:

The scheme had very little to do with combating corporate fraud and a lot to do with making money. The first lawyer to file and win certification for a class action usually controls all the other litigation on that particular claim nationally, and thus, gets the biggest fees. That’s why Lerach worked so hard to win the race to the courthouse by having plaintiffs essentially on retainer should a ripe target emerge. The details of the Milberg Weiss prosecution paint a pretty sleazy portrait of class action law. (The plaintiffs were actually paid in cash out of a safe in a Milberg office.) Two other Milberg partners have already pleaded guilty, as has the ophthalmologist. Milberg Weiss reportedly netted some $250 million in fees from those cases, and the firm itself has also been indicted, similar to the fate of the accounting firm Arthur Anderson in the Enron case.

Some of that money went to back political campaigns. Lerach himself has given about $1.3 million to Democratic Party entities and candidates since 1993. (He also served as a fundraiser for John Edwards’ presidential campaign until his plea agreement last Fall.) Milberg Weiss employees have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrats since 1990, and more than $800,000 in donations to 527 groups supporting Democratic presidential candidates in 2004. This generosity may be one reason why Lerach’s guilty plea doesn’t seem to have muted his liberal folk-hero status.

And it’s from Mother Jones, one of the premiere publications of the “progressive” crowd.

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