Four of the troubled law firm's top partners spent an hour this week with the U.S. Attorney's Office in L.A., presumably to discuss a deal in which the NY/LA firm would pay a big fine in exchange for the government dropping its criminal case. The WSJ says a deal could be weeks away. The Recorder says there's talk of the fine ranging from $50 million to $100 million. Of course, that leaves open the future of former partner and superstar class action attorney William Lerach, who told clients last week that he was leaving the San Diego-based firm he started three years ago after leaving Milberg Weiss (I know this gets a little complicated). Former prosecutor Laurie Levenson told the LAT that Lerach's departure could indicate an indictment is expected. Also considered vulnerable is MW founding partner Melvyn Weiss. The feds started sniffing around in 1999 and last year charged the firm and two former name partners with participating in a scheme to pay more than $11.3 million in illegal kickbacks to clients in more than 150 class-action and shareholder derivative actions. From the Recorder:
Over the last year or so, there has been concern within the firm that Weiss' desire to protect himself from charges may conflict with the firm's interests. Indeed, last year, the firm's executive committee brought in new counsel with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges to discuss a potential deal. While that didn't work out, lawyers involved in the case are now speculating on what it means that Weiss didn't attend the Wednesday meeting in Los Angeles -- and also on whether deals between the prosecutors and the firm -- or any of its former lawyers -- would result in his being charged.