Circle of Greed: Bill Lerach Does A Limited Hang-Out
It seems that you just can’t keep a bad man down. Fresh out of prison, Bill Lerach is the subject of a new book “Circle of Greed” by Patrick Dillon and Carl M. Cannon which claims to have had the “full cooperation” of Bill Lerach. The result, while well-written and still fascinating, is a quasi-authorized biography which stops just where the story becomes really interesting. It’s as if Ted Bundy was expected to tell the whole truth to his biographers.
The fundamental flaw is that “Circle of Greed” focuses upon Bill Lerach out of the context of the systemic fraud at Milberg Weiss which predated Lerach becoming a protégé of Mel Weiss. The systemic fraud and criminal conspiracy at Milberg Weiss went all the way back to Lawrence Milberg, so that no name partner was untouched. Similarly, the book fails to follow the trail of Lerach’s protégé Gene Cauley, who recently began serving a seven year sentence for stealing $9.3 million from an attorney escrow account, or the inter-relations and musical-chairs movement of partners of Gene Cauley and Lerach’s successor firm, Stoia Coughlin and Milberg LLP.
In short, Bill Lerach did not invent the criminal conspiracy; he joined it in progress. His “full cooperation” fails to name names and take numbers. Lerach refuses to identify a single non-prosecuted partner of Milberg Weiss as a participant in the criminal conspiracy. As a result, “Circle of Greed” falls short of explaining the reality that there was a culture of criminality at Milberg Weiss and its various spin-offs which extended throughout the firm, from the named partners down to the “case-starters” to the new associates. Similarly, there is little effort to pin down the ugly truth that, after the passage of the PSLRA, Lerach and Milberg Weiss systematically engaged in “pay to play” with the elected officials who control public employee pension plans across America. Lerach doesn’t reveal a single quid pro quo with any elected official to whom he liberally contributed.
Lerach knows, but he isn’t telling, because the statute of limitations has not yet run for all of his crimes, and any crimes committed after 2005 by Lerach , the already-prosecuted and non-prosecuted partners of Milberg Weiss, the paid plaintiffs, the crooked expert witnesses like the since-convicted John Torkelson and the crooked politicians who replaced the since-convicted Howard Vogel professional plaintiffs.
“Circle of Greed” fails to answer three fundamental questions:
1. Who else at the firm knew of the criminal conspiracy besides those already prosecuted?
2. Did the criminal conspiracy extend into 2006-2007 beyond the end date of the prior convictions?
3. Which elected public officials to whom large contributions were made was literally “on-the-take”?
In my opinion, based upon over thirty years’ experience in securities class actions and direct dealings with Bill Lerach and Mel Weiss, the answers are:
1. EVERY PARTNER at the firm knew of, participated in, and profited from, the decades-old criminal conspiracy.
2. The criminal conspiracy extended not only into 2006-2007 but continues to the present day.
3. The recipients of bribes disguised as campaign contributions are numerous, from New York’s since-convicted Comptroller Alan Hevesi to California CALPERS’ Angelides, and the “pay-to-play” practices are an ongoing corruption conspiracy.
The bottom line is that Bill Lerach isn’t “ratting out” anyone. The result is that “Circle of Greed” fails to deliver the real goods and falls short of a real explanation of how an astoundingly large group of sociopaths with licenses to practice law got away with their crimes for decades, nor how most of them are still practicing law, and bribing elected officials who control public employee pension plans.
Nevertheless, “Circle of Greed” is a must-read for lawyers and judges because even a “limited hang-out” by Bill Lerach reveals far more than he intended, and the authors’ skillful writing does indeed paint a stark, disturbing individual portrait of Bill Lerach.