Criminal Justice

Former BigLaw partner pleads guilty in plot to sell sealed lawsuits to targeted companies

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A former BigLaw partner pleaded guilty on Wednesday to charges stemming from an attempt to sell sealed whistleblower lawsuits he obtained while working at the U.S. Justice Department.

Jeffrey Wertkin, 41, pleaded guilty in San Francisco federal court to obstruction of justice and transportation of stolen property across state lines, report (sub. req.), Reuters and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Wertkin was wearing a wig and using a fake name on Jan. 31 when he was arrested in a hotel lobby while trying to sell a copy of a sealed lawsuit to a targeted California company for $310,000.

A company employee had called the FBI after he received a phone call from a man who called himself “Dan” and offered to sell a sealed complaint in exchange for a consulting fee.

Prosecutors said Wertkin also sought to sell a sealed suit to an Oregon company. He was also accused of returning to his office after his arrest where he destroyed incriminating documents, according to the Chronicle.

Wertkin was a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld at the time of his arrest, but he had worked at the Justice Department’s Civil Division from 2010 through April 2016.

His work at the Justice Department gave him access to sealed whistleblower complaints unrelated to his own cases. The complaints are sealed while the Justice Department investigates and decides whether to join the case.

Prosecutors will ask for a sentence between 30 and 37 months in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for March 14.

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