Monday, April 16, 2007
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. MILBERG WEISS BERSHAD & SCHULMAN LLP, DAVID J. BERSHAD, STEVEN G. SCHULMAN, SEYMOUR M. LAZAR, and PAUL T. SELZER, CR 05-5
April 16, 2007
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. MILBERG WEISS BERSHAD & SCHULMAN LLP, CR 05-587(A)-JW
It is axiomatic that, in America, criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. This is a legal presumption in the criminal proceeding; the presumption of innocence is not a complete bar to pre-verdict sanctions in general. For example, an accused pedophile may be removed from the classroom pending the outcome of the criminal case. Thus, many federal and state courts have already removed or refused to appoint Milberg Weiss as Lead Counsel in class actions. In my opinion, this judicial view reflects the reality that, so far, three people have entered guilty pleas in the criminal case, and others are cooperating witnesses. I realize that Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib happened, and that there historically have been coerced false guilty pleas. However, I believe that,in America, in general, people plead guilty because they ARE guilty and they want to minimize the legal consequences of their crimes. To my knowledge, there is absolutely no claim that any guilty plea or cooperation agreement in U.S.A. v. Milberg Weiss et al was obtained by coercion, torture, sleep deprivation, or any other wrongful means in Los Angeles, California or anywhere else. The people who entered guilty pleas did so in front of a federal judge while represented by counsel. Here's the lineup of witnesses who have either pleaded guilty or are testifying as cooperating witnesses in the trial, presently scheduled for January 2008 subject to adjournment.
A. FORMER PARTNERS OF MILBERG WEISS
1. ALAN SCHULMAN(no relation to defendant Steven Schulman) has reportedly received immunity from prosecution. Schulman was Bill Lerach's major domo for years, and deeply involved in West Coast case-starting, including a number of the cases involved in the indictment and others who have pleaded guilty or are cooperating witnesses.
2. ROBERT SUGARMAN has reportedly received immunity from prosecution. Sugarman was a key case-starter in the New York office of Milberg Weiss, dealing directly with making kickback arrangements and making the payoffs, sometimes in currency from David Bershad's safe in Bershad's credenza. SUGARMAN is corroborated by HOWARD VOGEL(see below), a client of Milberg Weiss, and GARY LOZOW(see below), a Denver-based lawyer who is reportedly a cooperating witness who directly inculpates Mel Weiss, who has not been charged individually.
B. FORMER CLIENTS OF MILBERG WEISS
1. HOWARD VOGEL, a serial plaintiff for Milberg Weiss, has pleaded guilty to a variety of federal crimes involving his having a clandestine arrangement with Milberg Weiss to receive kickbacks. VOGEL is corroborated by SUGARMAN and LOZOW.
2. STEVEN COOPERMAN, a serial plaintiff for Milberg Weiss, has pleaded guilty to a variety of federal crimes involving his having a clandestine arrangement with Milberg Weiss to receive kickbacks. STEVEN COOPERMAN has a previous felony conviction for insurance fraud.
3. MELVYN KINDER, a serial plaintiff for Milberg Weiss, has reportedly agreed to cooperate and testify that he had an undisclosed agreement with Milberg Weiss to receive kickbacks.
C. INTERMEDIARY LAWYERS
1. RICHARD PURTICH, Esq. has admitted to a variety of federal crimes involving his serving as an intermediary to launder the kickbacks from Milberg Weiss to clients.
2. GARY LOZOW, Esq. is reportedly a cooperating witness who corroborates VOGEL and SUGARMAN who met face-to-face with Mel Weiss in New York on November 10, 2003 and confirmed his participation in the already-ongoing conspiracy to obstruct justice by his college friend VOGEL. LOZOW and VOGEL corroborate each other.
1. PAMELA TORKELSEN, the estranged wife of JOHN TORKELSEN, who was the in-house expert witness for Milberg Weiss. She is expected to testify that her former husband and Milberg Weiss had a secret contingent-fee arrangement. Both PAMELA and JOHN TORKELSEN have already been convicted on other federal charges involving defrauding the SBA.
E. DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE
The government's witnesses will identify numerous documents corroborating their claim of a kickback arrangement, including checks and wires proving the transfers of funds from Milberg Weiss to the Intermediary Lawyers to the clients. A number of memos from the law firm that defendant PAUL SELZER worked for raise "red flags" about the arrangement.
The foregoing is not intended to be an encyclopedic version of the case. Clearly, if believed by the jury, the evidence of guilt is sufficient. The presumption of innocence in the criminal case in Los Angeles does not confer a blanket immunity from scrutiny. As a fiduciary as Lead Counsel, Milberg Weiss can be required by Lead Plaintiffs or the Court to explain itself. If Milberg Weiss' response is to invoke the Fifth Amendment, can the firm retain its fiduciary position while refusing to answer questions from class members or the Court.
Disclosure: In case you didn't read it between the lines, I am an "unfriendly competitor" of Milberg Weiss.