The trial of the prominent class-action securities law firm Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman and two of its named partners has been scheduled for January 2008 so that defense lawyers will have time to prepare if additional charges are filed.
The law firm and the partners are accused of making $11.3 million in secret payments to entice people to serve as plaintiffs in more than 150 lawsuits. At a hearing on Monday, prosecutors said a grand jury was investigating possible new charges that could come in a superseding indictment. Such an indictment would not include any new defendants, lawyers said.
Papers describing the possible new charges are under seal, and lawyers on both sides declined to discuss their contents outside the courtroom. Prosecutors have told the court that if they decide to seek the additional charges, they will do so by April of next year, said an attorney for the law firm, William W. Taylor.
A new indictment would also accuse Milberg Weiss lawyers of making false statements in court about the motivations of plaintiffs that the law firm represented in class-action lawsuits, a prosecutor said at Monday’s hearing.
“The heart of the case is the same: obstruction of justice, false statements to the court and the fact that the false statements were material,” said Douglas A. Axel, deputy chief of the major frauds section at the United States attorney’s office in Los Angeles.
A superseding indictment with no additional defendants would not preclude others being charged separately in the future, lawyers said.