U.S. District judge has dismissed all the criminal charges against securities law firm Milberg Weiss hours after the last defendant in the long-running criminal case, a Palm Springs real estate attorney, pleaded guilty to a tax-related felony. U.S. District Judge John Walter has also vacated the law firm’s Aug. 12 trial date on Monday this week. In a statement the assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Robinson said the government didn’t seek a guilty plea from the law firm because all the indicted partners had pleaded guilty. None of the participants in the scheme still worked at Milberg Weiss, and a guilty plea would have “killed” the firm.
It was charged that the partners of this New York based firm secretly paid kickbacks to plaintiffs in scores of class-action lawsuits targeting major corporations. Both Milberg Weiss and the plaintiffs then lied under oath about the illegal arrangement. The alleged law firm agreed to admit wrongdoing by some of its partners, pay $75 million to the government and set up a “best practices” program to enforce legal ethics.
The law firm Milberg Weiss was engaged in a scheme where it maintained a stable of paid plaintiffs who filed class-action lawsuits against large corporations, claiming they had been misled or cheated by their executives. At that time, federal law granted lead counsel status in class-actions to the law firm representing the first plaintiff to file the lawsuit.
In exchange for lead counsel status, Milberg Weiss secretly paid kickbacks of up to 10 percent of the attorneys’ fees accrued from court victories or settlements. The law firm and its paid plaintiffs then repeatedly lied to the courts about their activities.