William Lerach, the high-profile plaintiffs’ securities lawyer who long has been a nemesis of corporate America, is retiring this week amid a criminal probe involving him.
The move, long anticipated and confirmed by his law firm yesterday, comes as Mr. Lerach, 61 years old, has been a target of a federal investigation surrounding his former law firm, now called Milberg Weiss LLP. Mr. Lerach, who hasn’t been charged, is in advanced talks with prosecutors on a plea deal that could be announced in upcoming weeks and could involve serving prison time, according to two people familiar with the investigation. Mr. Lerach and his attorney John Keker didn’t respond to requests for comment.
In an email Mr. Lerach sent to friends and colleagues at his firm yesterday announcing his retirement, he said: “As you know, I will be retiring in short order to resolve the investigation about alleged events at my former firm more than a decade ago — long before this firm was even a twinkle in the eye. Because the events in question do not involve this 3-year-old firm or any of you, my 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.”
Earlier this year, his current firm, Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins LLP, said Mr. Lerach was “considering” retirement to prevent the firm from becoming distracted by the Milberg probe. The firm said yesterday that, effective Friday, its name will become Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins LLP.
Mr. Lerach has been a pioneer in the field of securities class actions, in which investors who suffer losses typically claim that executives misled them about a company’s financial condition. Some executives hit with these suits have come to call the process “getting Lerached.”