- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2008

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Prominent lawyer Melvyn Weiss agreed to plead guilty to racketeering in a lucrative kickback scheme involving payments to plaintiffs in class-action lawsuits targeting some of the largest U.S. corporations, federal prosecutors said yesterday.

Mr. Weiss, 72, also will acknowledge that he and others concealed secret payment arrangements that his firm, Milberg Weiss, had with named plaintiffs in the lawsuits, prosecutors said.

Under a plea deal announced yesterday , he could be sentenced to up to 33 months in prison and pay $10 million.

His firm dominated the industry in securities class-action lawsuits, which involve shareholders who claim they suffered losses because executives misled them about a company’s financial condition.

Authorities said the firm made an estimated $250 million over two decades by filing legal actions on behalf of professional plaintiffs who received $11.3 million in kickbacks.

Mr. Weiss’ plea deal was confirmed by attorney Benjamin Brafman, who represents Mr. Weiss.

Mr. Brafman did not specify the charges involved in the plea, but said his client would admit “limited participation in a criminal conspiracy” involving payments to plaintiffs.

Mr. Weiss apologized in a statement.

“I deeply regret my conduct and apologize to all those who have been affected,” he said.

To conceal the scheme from judges presiding over the lawsuits and other parties in the cases, participants in the conspiracy reputedly made false and misleading statements in court documents and in under-oath depositions, prosecutors said.

“This kickback scheme lasted for more than 25 years and had a severely detrimental effect on the administration of justice across the nation as lies were routinely made to judges overseeing significant cases,” said U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien.

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