Securities Lawyer Lerach Is Set to Plead Guilty
By Nathan Koppel
The Wall Street Journal
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Noted securities lawyer William Lerach is set to plead guilty to
one count of conspiracy in the criminal case involving his
former law firm, now called Milberg Weiss LLP. A plea agreement
calling for a one- to two-year prison term could be announced as
soon as today, according to people familiar with the
The case, brought last year in federal court in Los Angeles,
alleges Milberg Weiss paid $11.3 million in improper kickbacks
to clients. Two now-former partners of the firm were indicted
at the time. Mr. Lerach, as well as his former colleague Melvyn
Weiss, have been under investigation but haven't been charged.
Mr. Lerach once led the field of securities class actions, in
which investors who suffer losses typically claim executives
misled them about a company's financial condition. The lawyer
became a lightning rod for critics who claim plaintiffs
securities lawyers flood a company with papers until it agrees
to a settlement, regardless of the merits of the claim. Mr.
Lerach, 61 years old, has defended the suits as a way to keep
corporate America accountable.
The plea deal doesn't involve Mr. Lerach cooperating with the
government in its investigation, people familiar with the matter
say. The deal also calls for him to pay an $8 million fine,
according to a person familiar with the matter. The government
also will release Mr. Lerach's firm of the past few years,
Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins LLP, from the risk of
criminal charges, said a person familiar with the case. Mr.
Lerach retired from the firm last month.
Mr. Lerach's attorney didn't return a call for comment.
Another former Milberg Weiss partner, David Bershad, pleaded
guilty earlier this year and agreed to cooperate with the
investigation. Milberg Weiss and another former partner, Steven
Schulman, are fighting charges.
Write to Nathan Koppel at