Mel Weiss to plead guilty

by Walter Olson on March 20, 2008

WSJ: “Melvyn Weiss, the onetime powerhouse shareholders lawyer, has struck a deal to agree to plead guilty in a case alleging improper kickbacks, according to a person familiar with the investigation.” We’ve been covering the Milberg Weiss scandals on this site since they broke; my WSJ op-ed “Inside Milberg’s Credenza” is here. More:

According to a statement released Thursday by the defense lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, Mr. Weiss will plead guilty to participating in a criminal conspiracy to pay a share of legal fees to plaintiffs in shareholder suits brought by Milberg Weiss. Such kickbacks are improper because they give plaintiffs representing a class of all shareholders an incentive to accept a deal that might not be best for the class.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Mr. Weiss faces a sentence of up to 33 months in prison. Mr. Weiss has also agreed to pay a total of $10 million in fines and penalties, according to the statement.

(Jonathan Glater, NYT). More at WSJ law blog (Weiss: “I deeply regret my conduct”) including a copy of the plea agreement and government statement, both PDF.

The firm of Milberg Weiss, formerly Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman LLP, famous for shedding indicted names as an ecdysiast sheds clothes on stage, is now down to plain old Milberg LLP, and will presumably be able to stop there, the Milberg after whom it was named being nearly twenty years deceased. (Bumped 1:50 p.m.)

And: World-class chutzpah morsel from the NYLJ: “If Mr. Weiss had proceeded to trial, his defense was expected to argue that he was so preoccupied with humanitarian and charity work during the charged period that Messrs. Bershad and Schulman had been able to carry on the kickback scheme without his knowledge.” In the plea agreement, Weiss stipulates that he was in effective control of the firm and its operations and party to the conspiracy, and agrees to forfeit a sum of nearly $10 million which he acknowledges is less than what he gained from the illegal conduct.

Plus: Portfolio:

Weiss made staggering profits from the kickback scheme. According to the indictment, his share of the law firms profits from 1983 to 2005 amounted to more than $209 million. …

Sanford Dumain, a member of the Milberg L.L.P. executive committee, said, “Having previously believed former leaders’ assurances of their innocence, the firm is now seeking to find a fair and appropriate resolution of remaining issues so that we can continue to work on behalf of injured investors and consumers.”

The firm added in a statement: “Milberg L.L.P. apologizes to all judges, lawyers, clients, and class members, who deserve full and complete adherence to all legal and ethical norms.”

Portfolio also reports that the Milberg firm is intent on obtaining a deferred prosecution agreement: “If the firm pleaded guilty to a federal criminal offense, it is highly unlikely that a judge would approve the law firm to serve as lead counsel for the plaintiff in a class action.” More on the firm’s renaming: Lat. And Carter Wood at NAM notes the silly encomia with which Weiss’s lawyer is still attempting to gild his crooked client.

{ 1 trackback }

Weiss sentenced to 30 months
06.02.08 at 4:37 pm

{ 2 comments }

1 tribal elder 03.20.08 at 3:53 pm

“…agrees to forfeit a sum of nearly $10 million which he acknowledges is less than what he gained from the illegal conduct.”

Crime pays.

2 OBQuiet 03.20.08 at 4:05 pm

Tribal elder,

Could all the members of previous classes file a class action against Mr Weiss and his ex firm now? That could run into more than he gained.

Comments on this entry are closed.