But you can be sure, it's not an apology tour.
William Lerach, who made hundreds of millions of dollars in class-action securities litigation and then went to prison, was one of scores of speakers today at America's Future Now! conference, a gathering of left-leaning activists organized by the Campaign for America's Future.
He held down a meeting room at the Omni Shoreham for an hour over lunchtime to present a "special issue briefing" entitled "America's Broken Retirement Plans and Retirement Systems: Another 'Gift' From Wall Street." (From the conference agenda.)
We always knew that Lerach believed in wealth redistribution, but in a more self-serving sort of way. Now he's apparently selling himself as a progressive redistributor. It's a tough sell, as the alt-weekly San Diego Reader made clear in a recent piece, "Out of Prison, Living in Luxury." The author, Don Bauder, has no truck with banks, whom he scores for "plutocratic thievery," but neither is Lerach a hero in his view.
Lerach, who recently emerged from an almost two-year stretch in prison, is greatly responsible for this rigged game. As an attorney who filed hundreds of class-action suits against corporations, he became a bigger fraudster than a lot of the companies he was pursuing. First, he filed many dubious suits, rejoicing when 90 percent of the companies decided to settle for millions of dollars rather than spend the time and money fighting. That stratagem wasn't illegal, but it was grossly unethical -- the classic shakedown. Companies called it getting "Lerached." Second, Lerach and his firms paid fat kickbacks to shifty characters to become plaintiffs in those lawsuits. That was illegal, landing Lerach in prison.
Now he is out, residing comfortably in one of the county's most luxurious spreads, a cliffside villa in La Jolla. He is worth an estimated $700 million. The government made him pay a mere $7.5 million for his crimes.
Right. Here's the Sept. 18, 2007, news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Diego after Lerach agreed to plead guilty. Why would self-styled progressive reformers hang out with a convicted felon? Oh, right, he is worth an estimated $700 million. No enemies on the monied left.
William S. Lerach - lecturer, writer and investor advocate.
For decades, Mr. Lerach was one of the leading securities lawyers in the United States. He headed up the prosecution of hundreds of securities class and stockholder derivative actions which resulted in billions of dollars of recoveries for defrauded shareholders from Wall Street banks, big accounting firms, corporations and insurance companies. Mr. Lerach has been the subject of considerable media attention and is a frequent commentator on economic and political matters and securities and corporate law. His career was recently chronicled in the best-selling book "Circle of Greed."
The subject of considerable media attention!