- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2007

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A New York law firm accused of paying kickbacks to plaintiffs in class-action and shareholder lawsuits said yesterday that one of its partners will be indicted and that more charges will be filed against the firm.

Milberg Weiss said it has learned that Melvyn Weiss, who helped start the firm, will be charged in connection with the seven-year federal investigation.

“Mr. Weiss has decided to discontinue his participation in firm management in order to focus on the defense of the charges against him,” the statement said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, where the case will be tried, declined to comment.

It wasn’t known whether Mr. Weiss had hired a defense attorney.

Mr. Weiss would be the latest lawyer from the prestigious firm to be indicted.

On Tuesday, prosecutors said William Lerach agreed to plead guilty to a federal conspiracy charge that could bring a sentence ranging from one to two years in federal prison. His arraignment is pending.

In July, David Bershad pleaded guilty to conspiracy and will be sentenced early next year.

Prosecutors accuse the firm of secretly paying more than $11 million in kickbacks to get people to take part in more than 150 class-action and shareholder lawsuits, allowing its lawyers to be among the first to file litigation and secure the lucrative position as lead plaintiffs’ counsel.

Prosecutors say the firm netted more than $200 million in fees during a 20-year period.

The case stems from an ongoing federal probe that led to last year’s indictment of the firm once known as Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman and two of its partners.

The firm and former partner, Stephen Schulman, pleaded not guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges. Trial is scheduled for January, and a hearing is set for tomorrow.

Former physician Steven G. Cooperman also pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge for his role as a plaintiff in the reputed kickback scheme.

Lerach, 61, and Mr. Weiss targeted some of the nation’s largest companies in litigation, including AT&T;, Lucent, WorldCom, Sears, Roebuck, Microsoft, Prudential Insurance and Lincoln Savings & Loan.

Lerach acknowledged making secret payments to Mr. Cooperman and that other plaintiffs received payments.

In a statement, Lerach said he “regrettably crossed a line and pushed too far.”

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