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Milberg Weiss partner agrees to plead guilty
By Edvard Pettersson, Bloomberg News
Denver Post
Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Los Angeles - Milberg Weiss & Bershad partner David Bershad agreed to plead guilty to charges related to a scheme to pay illegal kickbacks to plaintiffs in securities lawsuits, the Justice Department said in an e-mailed statement Monday.

Bershad, 67, who is on leave from the firm, was indicted last year by a grand jury with former partner Steven Schulman and the law firm for making "secret and illegal payments" in cases for which the firm was paid $216 million.

"This will shake up the investigation," said Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and a former federal prosecutor.  "He certainly is an insider, and he may be exactly what the prosecution needs."

Milberg Weiss, which has recovered more than $45 billion for investors in securities- fraud litigation, was once the biggest U.S. investor class-action law firm.

For more than seven years, prosecutors have been probing whether its lawyers paid kickbacks to clients in exchange for their signing on to lawsuits.

"I'm not going to say anything," Bershad said when asked about a possible plea deal.

The law firm and Schulman, 56, who quit in December, denied the allegations.

The Daily Journal, a Los Angeles legal newspaper, reported June 28 that Milberg Weiss partner Melvyn Weiss and William Lerach, a former partner who left in 2004 to form a San Diego law firm, rejected plea agreements that would have required they serve as much as four years in prison.

Weiss and Lerach haven't been indicted. They are referred to in court papers detailing the alleged scheme only as Partner A and Partner B.

According to the indictment, between 1983 and 2005, Bershad owned between 10 percent and 18 percent of the firm and his share of Milberg Weiss' profits totaled about $160.9 million.