Trying to Get Back in the Game - Business

WASHINGTON - Dozens of the nation's top corporate lawyers in a conference convened last week to discuss the future of securities litigation.

In past years, Melvyn I. Weiss have played a central role in the debate.

But while the lawyers argued about Wall Street reform and the decision before the Supreme Court, Mr. Weiss sat on a panel in the lobby, talking about his time in prison.

When a leader called "Weiss lawyer," he quickly corrected her.

"The former Attorney Weiss," he says, a poignant half-smile on his face.

Mr. Weiss has lost his license to practice law when he pleaded guilty in 2008 of illegal kickback payments to its customers. He spent a year in jail, another four months in a halfway house and is now on probation for three years.

And if it is removed, Mr. Weiss intends to return to the legal arena. He sent letters in recent weeks about 200 of his former colleagues in search of work as a mediator.

"Despite the turmoil in my own life, I am pleased to announce that my body and mind are in great shape and I am motivated to be as productive as ever," wrote Mr. Weiss, 75, on paper header of his new company, MIW mediation and consultation.

Citing his experience as a mediator appointed by the court and decades of practicing law, Mr. Weiss writes: "Ultimately, I am available for mediation or arbitration of lawsuits."

Mr. Weiss has devoted his career among the lawsuits. He and his partners at Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes Lerach & revolutionized the shareholder class actions, the filing of the flow of cases against companies, accusing them of accounting fraud and other wrongdoing. Most companies based rather than undergo costly litigation, earning the firm hundreds of millions of dollars in legal fees.

Aggressive tactics the company has made it the bane of corporate America. Business groups called Milberg Weiss prosecutions a legal form of extortion. Congress passed a law in 1995 aimed squarely at its practices.

In 2006, Milberg Weiss was charged with secretly paying millions of dollars in kickbacks to clients illegal to serve as plaintiffs in about 180 cases over 25 years. M. Weiss and three of his partners went to jail. His former firm, now called Milberg, paid $ 75 million to settle its role in the case.

No one has yet to hire Mr. Weiss as a mediator, and he said he realized that his luggage was a challenge for his fledgling business. Yet it is serious about the business - last summer, he took a course of arbitration of a week at Pepperdine University School of Law.

A lawyer can mediate deleted?

Most legal experts say there is no problem with Mr. Weiss acting in this role, after all, nonlawyers can act as mediators. Sol Wachtler, the former New York judge who lost his law degree in 1993 after pleading guilty to a crime of harassment, has acted as a mediator before being reinstated to the bar a few years ago.

But Bruce Green, a professor of moral ethics at Fordham University, said he believed that Mr. Weiss may act inconsistently with its order radiation.

"I'm not convinced that it is permissible for a disbarred lawyer to mediate and expressly rely on prior legal experience, as Mr. Weiss seems to be done," said Green.

Mr. Weiss, the Bronx-born son of an accountant, would not be a mediator for the money. For years 1983 to 2005, from Mr. Weiss profits of his company were about $ 210 million, according to documents filed by the court. (As part of his sentence, he paid a fine of $ 10 million.)

He divides time between a beachfront mansion in Oyster Bay Cove, NY, and a luxury condominium in Boca Raton, Florida

However, clouds financial business. In prison, Mr. Weiss learned that much of his savings had been eliminated in the Ponzi scheme of Bernard L. Madoff. Madoff the bankruptcy trustee then sued Mr. Weiss, his family and a former partner claiming they earned $ 20.4 million of profits from the fraud that had to be false returned to victims.

Mr. Weiss declined to comment further.

It is also locked in an arbitration against his former firm, which Mr. Weiss wants to compensate the company for tens of millions of dollars in legal fees it spent defending themselves.

During his speech, Mr. Weiss did not address these personal issues. Instead he focused on the problems faced by fellow inmates.

"The advice I received from most of my friends was, why do you want to dwell on the criminal part of your life?" Said Mr. Weiss, addressing a packed room at the American Constitution Society convention.

"How could I go through this experience with my 50 years of legal practice and not try to do something? So that's why I'm here."

He denounced the conditions of his halfway house, an "Army Hi decrepit building" in West Palm Beach, Fla., complained that he had a small TV with rabbit ears, that basketball do not bounce and patio furniture was collapsing.

"I went into this environment and said," How is it supposed to be a transition in society? "

He expressed frustration that he could not help his fellow prisoners because his probation prohibiting him from having contact with criminals.

This rule prevents them from speaking with William S. Lerach, his former protege and law partner. Mr. Lerach, who led the West Coast operation of Milberg Weiss and led in many cases, the largest of the firm, also served as a prison. Despite a bitter split in 2004, he expressed warm feelings for Mr. Weiss.

"I admire his decision to work again and think it could be extremely useful for the system as a mediator," Mr. Lerach said.

But 65 years of Mr. Lerach, who has written several opinion articles and lectured at law schools since his release from prison, said he had no interest in such business.

"I had a life of work and these days I'm just tinkering long," said Lerach, who lives in a mansion in La Jolla, California, perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. " I would tend to my garden. Right now I'm harvesting blueberries and boysenberry. "

Mr. Weiss has no garden, and while he golfs, with ongoing membership of Long Island Country Club (Glen Oaks) and Florida (Boca de Rio), he said he was not connected to live a life of leisure.

"Some guys work their whole lives and can then turn the tap," said Weiss, who has a wife, three children and seven grandchildren. "They play golf in the morning, gin rummy in the afternoon, dinner with their wives at night and that's it. It's not me."

After his speech here on Friday, Mr. Weiss milled about the conference, happy to be back in the game. A judge in Iowa showed up and said that when he chaired a case of life insurance marketing fraud made by Mr. Weiss. One of his former Milberg partners have come to say hello.

A lawyer for plaintiffs summit "gave him a warm welcome and have agreed to have dinner with their wives on their return to New York.

Down the hall, a lawyer who tried the case with Mr. Weiss marveled at his court holding onetime colleague. "It was a terrible lawyer, I liked to try cases with him," said the lawyer, who would be listed on condition of anonymity.

"But he also made serious errors and dishonored our profession. It's a mixed bag with Mel."