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Plaintiff Says He Conspired With Milberg
By Nathan Koppel
The Wall Street Journal
Thursday, February 1, 2007

A Connecticut man agreed to plead guilty to conspiring with the law firm Milberg Weiss & Bershad LLP and several of its partners to obstruct justice and make false statements in class action lawsuits it handled.

Under the agreement filed in federal court in Los Angeles, Steven G. Cooperman, 64 years old, will admit he received payments from Milberg Weiss to serve as lead plaintiff in numerous class actions filed on behalf of shareholders against publicly traded companies.

In May, the firm -- with principal offices in New York and an office in Los Angeles -- was indicted on fraud charges for allegedly paying illegal kickbacks to lead plaintiffs in class-action lawsuits. Representatives of the firm have denied wrongdoing.

According to a release issued by the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, Mr. Cooperman and several relatives and associates served as named plaintiffs in about 70 class actions and shareholder-derivative actions brought by Milberg Weiss from 1988 to 2003. According to court documents signed by the prosecutor and Mr. Cooperman, Milberg Weiss got more than $133 million in lawyers fees as a result of these lawsuits and "secretly" paid Mr. Cooperman more than $6.4 million in kickback payments.

According to the government, Mr. Cooperman has in the past cooperated with prosecutors on this matter. But prosecutors say Mr. Cooperman allegedly committed "additional crimes" while serving a prison sentence for insurance fraud that violated terms of his earlier agreement. "He committed some acts that revealed a lack of judgment while in prison," says Russell Gioiella, Mr. Cooperman's lawyer. "Because of those errors, the government revoked the plea agreement."

William Taylor III, a lawyer representing Milberg Weiss, called Mr. Cooperman's statements about the firm "not new," stating: "They have never been credible, and they are no more so today."

Write to Nathan Koppel at nathan.koppel@wsj.com

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB117029098942994385.html?mod=us_business_whats_news