The four lawyers who ran Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP, the firm that got investors $45 billion from securities lawsuits against publicly traded companies, are reacquainting themselves with life on the outside now that they’ve left prison.
“I am enjoying my freedom,” Melvyn I. Weiss, 74, said in a phone interview from his apartment in Boca Raton, Florida. “I am honing my skills at golf. I am thinking about the experience I just went through and what I should do with it.”
His former partner, William S. Lerach, 64, was freed March 8. Two others, David J. Bershad, 70, and Steven G. Schulman, 58, left prison in July. Prosecutors said the men, who industrialized the filing of securities fraud class actions, secretly paid clients to pursue such cases, bringing the firm $251 million in attorney fees from 1979 to 2005. All four pleaded guilty. Their old firm, now Milberg LLP, agreed to pay $75 million to end the case.
Milberg, based in New York, used intermediaries to pay clients who would serve as plaintiffs in shareholder lawsuits, the government said. The practice helped the firm file cases faster than rivals at a time when being first to sue meant it would likely control the case, reap a larger reward in the verdict or settlement, and get bigger fees.
Bershad was first to plead guilty in Los Angeles federal court in July 2007, agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors. He was followed by Schulman, Lerach and finally Weiss, who pleaded guilty in April 2008 to racketeering conspiracy.
“It’s no fun being in prison,” Lerach said in an interview when asked about his time behind bars. “You are away from your family, your loved ones and your dogs.”