[JURIST] Former Milberg Weiss partner William S. Lerach has agreed to plead guilty [press release] to conspiracy to obstruct justice charges in a plot in which Milberg Weiss allegedly paid up to $11.3 million in illegal kickbacks since 1984 to individuals to serve as lead plaintiffs in class action and shareholder derivative lawsuits. As part of the plea deal, Lerach will forfeit $7.75 million to the state, pay a $250,000 fine, and complete a one to two year prison sentence. He severed ties [press release] with his most recent law firm, now Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman Robbins, in late August.
In May of 2006, a federal grand jury indicted Milberg Weiss [JURIST report] and two name partners, David J. Bershad and Steven G. Schulman, on charges of conspiracy to make false statements and obstructing justice. Lerach was named as "Partner B" in the indictment [PDF text]. As part of the scheme, certain individuals who agreed to serve as class action representatives were promised 10 percent of the attorney fees eventually gathered by Milberg Weiss. This kickback was not revealed to the judge overseeing litigation, and the named plaintiffs who collected the kickback money made false statements under oath concerning the payments. Three individuals pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in connection with the scheme in May 2006, and former Milberg Weiss name partner David Bershad pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to conspiracy charges in July. Reuters has more. The Washington Post has additional coverage.