Exposing the Dark side, and Then Joining It


I want to highlight an outrage of the week. Or maybe of the month. Possibly the year.

Say a person, in his idealistic youth, brought to the world’s attention, and roundly condemned, an an unethical activity. Legalized corruption. In the course of digging up and exposing the immorality, he became intimately familiar with all the details of it. Maybe even in the far back of his mind he was thinking, “Man, if I weren’t so ethical – and exposing this bad stuff to the world – I could make a killing doing this.”

Fast forward a few years. He decided to drop his moral scruples, join forces with the dark side, and go forward with making a killing off of it.

True story. His name is Bill Lerach, of the law firm Milberg Weiss. Here’s an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal:

“In 1972, a young lawyer co-authored an article for the University of Pittsburgh Law Review. He targeted class-action securities lawsuits, calling them ‘procedural monstrosities.’ They were legal extortion, he said, in which plaintiffs simply use ‘allegations as a bargaining weapon to be disposed of when an appropriate premium has been extracted from the defendant.’

The lawyer-author was none other than Bill Lerach, who would quickly get over his moral scruples and turn those ‘monstrosities’ into one of the most lucrative businesses in the country….pioneering an assembly-line model of ‘strike’ lawsuits against corporate America.”

Lerach got so greedy during his legal extortion that he started engaging in illegal corruption in order to underpin his legal corruption. He paid kickbacks to a plaintiff – a phony plaintiff named Seymour Lazar who was involved in in more than 70 of Lerach’s lawsuits.

Now Lerach is in jail.

That, along with several other cases of law firms engaging in illegal corruption, was a huge scandal. Probably the biggest scandal you never heard of, unless you read the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. Almost all of the other media ignored it. That’s because the latter only report on corporate corruption scandals like Enron. They don’t report on corruption scandals involving their ideological soul mates, i.e. the trial lawyers.

Sometimes you may be able to eke out of them some reporting involving labor union corruption scandals, but that’s very rare, and if it happens, it’s usually buried on the inside pages as a “small news” item.

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