Lawyer to Plead Guilty in Class Action Kickback Scheme

July 12, 2007

David J. Bershad, a former partner of the New York law firm Milberg Weiss & Bershad LLP, has agreed to plead guilty to a federal conspiracy charge in connection with kickbacks the firm paid to plaintiffs in class action and shareholder lawsuits, prosecutors said.

Bershad was one of two of the firm’s partners indicted in July 2006, along with the law firm, an attorney who prosecutors say accepted kickbacks, and a fourth man accused of laundering funds in the case.

The other partner, Steven Schulman, resigned from the firm in December and has vowed to fight the charges.

Bershad, 67, of Montclair, N.J., will plead guilty to one count of conspiring to obstruct justice and one count of conspiring to make false statements under oath, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

In the plea agreement reached late last week, Bershad agreed to forfeit $7.75 million, to pay a $250,000 fine and to cooperate in the government’s ongoing investigation.

An attorney representing Bershad did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.

Steven G. Cooperman, who prosecutors say was another of the plaintiffs paid to lend his name to a variety of class action lawsuits, was scheduled to plead guilty to conspiracy on Tuesday, prosecutors said.

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles handed down a 20-page indictment last year against Schulman, Bershad and the firm. Prosecutors allege the defendants secretly paid more than $11 million in kickbacks to get people to take part in more than 150 class action and shareholder lawsuits.

Federal prosecutors contend that secret kickback arrangements allowed the firm to be among the first to file lawsuits on behalf of shareholders and secure the lucrative position as lead plaintiffs’ counsel.

Prosecutors allege the firm received more than $200 million in fees from such lawsuits filed over the past 20 years.

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