The editors at Conde Nast Portfolio were kind enough to invite me to contribute a rebuttal, which is now online, to William Lerach’s egregious apologia pro crookery sua. The allotted space permits me to address briefly only a couple of Lerach’s worst howlers, in particular his bald assertions that his concealed kickbacks did no harm to class members or to competing lawyers. (It’s true that named class representatives do a very poor job at their intended mission of standing in for other class members’ interests, but secretly aligning their incentives with the size of fee awards, rather than the value of the settlement to the class, is a corruption meant to keep them from ever living up to their theoretical watchdog role.)
For a more extended look at what’s wrong with Lerach’s article, let me recommend Joseph Nocera’s excellent column a week ago in the Times:
In the article, Mr. Lerach expresses zero remorse, positions his crimes as having hurt no one while serving a greater good and makes the absurd claim that he was railroaded by his political opponents.
It is a brazen, shameful piece of work — and it must infuriate the prosecutors who made the plea agreement with him, and the judge who accepted it, especially since Mr. Lerach wrote his own remorseful letter to the judge ahead of his sentencing. It also ought to infuriate anyone who cares about the law. Plenty of criminals head to prison still believing they’re above the law, but Mr. Lerach takes the cake.
Ted Frank has some further thoughts on that point. And note (from Nocera) that Lerach’s “everyone did it” swipes at his colleagues — which many, including we, have read as grounds for an investigation — are by no means passing without contradiction from colleagues:
Mr. Lerach’s statement has infuriated other plaintiffs’ lawyers. “It would just be unthinkable” to give kickbacks to lead plaintiffs, said Max Berger, of the firm Bernstein, Litowitz, Berger & Grossman. Added Sean Coffey, another Bernstein, Litowitz partner: “It is bad enough that this confessed criminal cheated for years to get an unfair advantage over his rival firms. But for this guy, on his way to prison, to say that everyone does it is just beyond the pale.”
P.S.: For another example of just how slippery Lerach’s careful phrasings can be, check this Roger Parloff post from an earlier point in the scandal. And Stephanie Mencimer, whose writings are nearly always criticized in this space, deserves due credit for seeing through Lerach’s “liberal folk-hero status” to the “pretty sleazy” realities beneath in this February article.