Bill Lerach leaves prison
Monday, March 22, 2010
In a blast from an awkward past, William S. “Bill” Lerach, the San Diego lawyer who helped propel class-action lawsuits to dizzying heights before crashing and burning, left federal prison earlier this month after serving a two-year sentence.
Bloomberg caught up with Lerach and three of his former partners at Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP, which racked up some $45 billion – yeah, with a “b” – in settlements and awards until it unraveled when federal prosecutors caught them paying clients to serve as plaintiffs. All four men went to prison. The law firm survived and now is know simply as Milberg.
Under Lerach and Melvin I. Weiss, the Milberg, Weiss firm was involved in some of the biggest and highest-profile cases over the past 20 years, from lawsuits targeting tobacco companies and Enron to Silicon Valley firms and other corporations whose executives used insider knowledge to enrich themselves at the expense of stockholders. For tort reform advocates, Lerach and Milberg, Weiss became the poster-child examples of what they see as wrong with the system.
Coincidentally — or maybe not so coincidentally — the week before Lerach was released from prison, two journalists, Carl M. Cannon and Patrick Dillon, published a history of Lerach and the Milberg firm, “Circle of Greed: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Lawyer Who Brought Corporate America to Its Knees.” Intriguing reading.