George Will

David Bershad, who has made $161 million with the firm since 1983, has pleaded guilty to one charge and cooperated with prosecutors. Steven Schulman has pleaded guilty to racketeering. The collateral damage is still spreading. A Los Angeles attorney has pleaded guilty to acting as a conduit for secret payments to one of the pantry plaintiffs for accepting payments from Milberg Weiss for work never done and for passing the payments on to the plaintiff.

How do you convict a company of the crime of having the price of its stock fall? How do you prove that a company is guilty of fraud and liable for losses it presumably did not want? Often you do not prove it, or even plan to. Rather, you threaten to be such a costly nuisance that the company pays you to go away. Milberg Weiss is even suing investment banks on behalf of investors in companies' initial public offerings that soared and then plummeted.

Lerach was a Lincoln Bedroom guest in President Bill Clinton's White House. Shortly after Lerach attended a White House dinner, Clinton vetoed legislation that would have restricted class-action lawsuits. Lerach gave $100,000 to Clinton's presidential library.

Does political money flow toward beliefs or do beliefs move toward money? Much scholarship strongly suggests the former. Democrats are rewarded for their devotion to trial lawyers, but there is another reason why they are disposed to devotion. The problem is not that Democrats are "bought" by trial lawyers. The problem is that Democrats, who see victims everywhere, are actually disposed to believe the narrative of pandemic victimization of investors.

Milberg Weiss turned that narrative into gold, which it shared with Democrats. Since 1980, the firm's partners have given more than $7 million to Democratic candidates, and an additional $500,000 to help build the Democratic National Committee's new headquarters.

Until Lerach pleaded guilty he was a fundraiser for Edwards, for whom he collected $64,000 from lawyers in the firm he founded after he had a falling out with Weiss. Remember this when next you hear Edwards' populist riff about trial lawyers as white knights protecting little people.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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