Brandon Hernández 9 a.m., Aug. 1
Melvyn Weiss, Once Co-Managing Partner of Notorious New York/San Diego Law Firm, Allegedly a Victim of Ponzi Schemer Madoff
According to the Wall Street Journal of Saturday/Sunday (Dec. 13-14) one of the persons who lost money in the alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme of Bernard Madoff is New York's Melvyn Weiss, former co-head of the now-defunct New York/San Diego law firm Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach. Several partners of the firm, including Weiss and Lerach, have pleaded guilty to a number of charges related to a kickback scheme with clients, and have been sentenced to prison. Weiss was sentenced to 30 months of incarceration in June. Lerach was sentenced to two years in February. The firm was the scourge of the business community, filing class action suits against companies that reported unfavorable results. Many settled without going to court, and the firm raked in billions. The law firm split into separate New York and San Diego firms in 2004. According to media, Madoff has admitted that his investment scheme was a Ponzi that took possibly $50 billion from victims, including wealthy investors, charities and hedge funds. The only time I spoke with Weiss was in 1999, when I learned that the law firm had sued one of its own clients. The company, 4Kids Entertainment, had been the law firm's first corporate client. Almost all the firm's activity was in suing companies on behalf of supposedly aggrieved investors -- not representing corporations. Good law firms have elaborate, often computerized systems for learning if there are any conflicts of interest in taking on cases. But Milberg Weiss blew that one. When I spoke with him in 1999, Weiss was very somber. I am sure he is more so today.