Feds Indict Milberg Weiss’ Favorite Plaintiff

A federal grand jury in Los Angeles has indicted a Palm Springs, Calif., man in connection with allegations concerning class-action suits brought by Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman L.L.P., a law firm that often organizes suits against the boards of insurers and other businesses.

The individual accused is Seymour Lazar, 78, a retired attorney. Prosecutors say he accepted $2.4 million in illegal payments for serving as a named plaintiff in about 50 class-action lawsuits over a period of 20 years.

Prosecutors say Lazar conspired to obstruct justice and defraud absent class members and shareholders in lawsuits in which Lazar or one of his family members served as a named plaintiff.

The indictment refers to a New York law firm but does not give the name of that firm. The indictment alleges that, to conceal the kickback scheme from the courts presiding over class-action lawsuits and other parties to such legal actions, Lazar made false and misleading statements in depositions and documents he signed under penalty of perjury.

The indictment also includes several money-laundering counts, a count of obstructing the grand jury investigation, and a criminal forfeiture count.

Milberg Weiss, New York, has issued a statement saying it is “saddened” by the indictment against Lazar.

“Although the indictment does not name Milberg Weiss, it unfairly implicates the firm in the wrongdoing of Lazar,” the firm says in the statement. “We are outraged that these allegations have been made against the firm and reject them as baseless.”

Thomas Bienert, a San Clemente, Calif., lawyer who represents Lazar, reportedly told the New York Times the government was trying to pressure his client to take a plea deal and testify against Milberg Weiss. He described Lazar as a “crusader for consumer advocacy,” according to the Times.

Bienert did not immediately respond to telephone calls from National Underwriter reporters seeking his comments about the indictment.