Mel Weiss Gets 2.5 Years for Client Kickback Scheme

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Pioneering securities class-action lawyer Melvyn Weiss was sentenced today to 30 months in prison for his role in a scheme to pay kickbacks to clients.

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports that Weiss stood quietly, hands clasped, as the sentence was handed down in a federal court in Los Angeles.

Before sentencing, Weiss read a statement apologizing to to his family, colleagues, the court, and the firm he co-founded, Milberg Weiss.

“I stand before you very humbly to apologize to my family, my professional colleagues and people in the organization I built over 45 years. I also apologize to the court for my wrongful conduct,” the Law Blog reports. “My contrition is profound and genuine.”

The judge sentenced Weiss just under the maximum under his plea agreement, which called for up to 33 months and $10 million in fines and penalties. His lawyer had asked for leniency and a sentence of 18 months.

Today’s sentence comes with news that Milberg Weiss, now simply Milberg LLP, may be close to a deal with prosecutors that would resolve unprecedented charges that the law firm itself was responsible for paying more than $11 million in kickbacks.

The Wall Street Journal quoted sources as saying the plea deal would result in one of the largest criminal penalties for a law firm. As noted in an earlier post, last year, Jenkens & Gilchrist agreed to pay $76 million to end a probe into marketing of abusive tax shelters in Chicago.

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