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John C. Coffee, Jr., on Milberg case

The prominent Columbia corporate law professor has a good column on the indictment in the Jun. 19 National Law Journal, unfortunately not online. A couple of snippets:

Of course, all defendants are entitled to a presumption of innocence. The defense of Milberg Weiss and its partners is that they only paid referral fees to other law firms or lawyers and did not know that the referral fees were being passed through to the clients. This issue is for the jury to decide, but defense counsel had best be prepared to answer one obvious question: Does a law firm need to pay referral fees to another law firm 70 or more times to obtain the same plaintiff over and over? Could it not have simply asked its client, after the first several cases, if it could contact him directly about future cases? If he refuses, the issue of willful blindness begins to surface....

Many have long wondered as to what could motivate anyone with no real financial stake to be deposed in hundreds of cases, and the current indictment will suggest to some that under-the-table payments have long been customary. Indeed, professional plaintiffs appear to have maintained broad and inclusive stock portfolios with trivial holdings that were designed to give their law firms immediate access to court. One does not logically do this for free.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.