There is a tendency in the media and elsewhere to forget about high-profile scandals, such as the Milberg Weiss bribery case, once the fines are assessed, convictions recorded and jail terms begun. But the deal reached this week by federal prosecutors and the infamous class-action securities law firm now known simply as Milberg should only be the first step in exposing the corruption that is rife in the plaintiffs bar. Among the key outstanding issues are these:
– What assurance is there that the bribery, obstruction of justice and fraud exposed by the Milberg Weiss scandal are not the rule, rather than the exception, in class-action securities litigation? After all, former Milberg Weiss partner William Lerach insists that he is in federal prison for doing what was “industry practice.”
– What about the trio of still-unnamed indicted former Milberg Weiss partners who participated in the firm’s corrupt practices. Who are they, what did they do and where are they?
– What about the federal and state judges in whose courts the 165 cases identified by federal prosecutors as part of the Milberg Weiss conspiracy took place? What assurance is there that these judges weren’t similarly scammed in other cases by different firms and aren’t being scammed now?
– What is the SEC doing about the stockbrokers who participated in the Milberg Weiss conspiracy? Are new regulations needed to prevent other stock brokers from aiding and profiting from future Milberg Weiss-type conspiracies?
– One former Milberg Weiss partner, who left the firm after its federal indictment in 2007, has sued disgraced former partners Lerach, Melvyn Weiss and Steven Schulman. What about the defendants in the 165 cases prosecutors identified as involving Milberg Weiss corruption? Do those defendants now have grounds for damages lawsuits against the firm and its former partners?
Milberg Weiss clearly is not an isolated bad apple. Dickie Scruggs, the original “King of Torts” who filed landmark class-action tobacco and asbestos litigation, is headed to federal prison for trying to bribe a judge. And what about the legions of fraudulent asbestos and silica medical damages claims and the attorneys who filed them, as scathingly described by federal District Judge Janis Graham Jack in 2006?
Where is Congress in all this? When The Examiner asked House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers earlier this week about hearings on these issues, he said he “has made repeated requests to the Department of Justice to provide members of the committee with a briefing on these cases.”
Conyers waiting for the Bush Justice Department? Conyers should cut the excuses and do what he always does when Republicans are accused of scandal — call the press and convene an investigation.