LAWFUEL – The Law Firm Newswire – California plaintiff’s lawyer Willia…

LAWFUEL – The Law Firm Newswire – California plaintiff’s lawyer William S. Lerach yesterday told his partners that he would resign this week to resolve a long-running criminal investigation into his tactics and business practices.

With Lerach’s departure, his name will be stripped from Lerach Coughlin, the 180-lawyer San Diego firm he founded three years ago. Among the most successful class- action lawyers in a generation, Lerach and his team secured $7.3 billion for Enron investors.

In an e-mail to colleagues obtained by The Washington Post, Lerach acknowledged unspecified “mistakes” and said that his decision to step aside “will ensure continuity and stability for the hundreds of clients who benefit from your stellar work. This will end the investigation.”

In recent weeks, Lerach, 61, has been in increasingly serious plea negotiations with federal prosecutors in Los Angeles, according to two sources familiar with the talks. Government lawyers for seven years have been investigating whether he and colleagues paid millions of dollars to clients in exchange for their agreeing to be plaintiffs in securities lawsuits against some of the nation’s largest companies.

Prosecutors gained substantial momentum in July after David J. Bershad, who practiced law with Lerach for decades at the New York firm Milberg Weiss and who managed the finances of the law firm, agreed to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge and cooperate with investigators. In court papers, Bershad implicated “senior partners” of the firm in a scheme to hide from judges and others more than $11 million in kickbacks to select clients.

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