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Lerach admits role in kickback scheme

  Legal Business  -   POSTED: 2007/09/19 14:13

William Lerach, the lead attorney in a New York-based law firm that lodged a $1 billion class-action against the CNMI industry, has pleaded guilty to a criminal indictment filed in Los Angeles, California. According to a Washington Post report, the 61-year-old Lerach agreed to plead guilty to a charge of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Lerach also agreed to pay the U.S. government fines and penalties of $8 million.

The report stated that under the terms of the plea, the lawyer will serve at least one year and no more than two years in federal prison. The plea agreement requires court approval, the report added.

The guilty plea deal ends a seven-year investigation into allegations that Lerach and his former law firm, Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman LLP, secretly paid people to serve as plaintiffs.

“I have always fought for my clients aggressively and vigorously in order to hold powerful corporations responsible when their actions harmed people,” said Lerach in a statement that was included in the Washington Post article.

Lerach said he regrettably crossed a line and pushed too far.

“For my actions, I apologize and accept full responsibility for my conduct,” he said.

According to a May 16, 2006 Wall Street Journal article, a New Jersey businessman pleaded guilty of taking secret payments as a plaintiff in Milberg class-action lawsuits between 1991 and 2005.

The businessman's guilty plea reportedly caused two top partners of Milberg to leave the law firm.

Milberg is known for filing shareholder class-action lawsuits in which investors go against corporate management with big money at stake.

In 2005, Milberg reportedly sued at least 75 companies for securities fraud. In 2004 and 2005, the law firm reportedly settled 90 cases and extracted more than $1.5 billion from investors.

In January 1999, Milberg and other law firms, on behalf of some garment workers, sued several garment factories on Saipan, alleging that workers were made to work in sweatshop conditions.

The garment owners branded the lawsuit as “embellished and unreal.”

After a costly litigations, the class-suit was settled in the U.S. District Court for the NMI. The combined settlement fund reportedly reaches close to $20 million. A total of $8.75 million went to plaintiffs' lawyers.

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