Melvyn Weiss, the 72-year-old head of a law firm that grew rich by paying off plaintiffs for shareholder lawsuits, has been sentenced to 30 months in jail for racketeering, according to news reports today. His sentence is set to start in August in Morgantown, W.V.
Despite pleas for leniency and over 150 letters from various associates and ex-clients lauding Weiss for his past dealings on the right side of the law, a U.S. district judge has also ordered Weiss to pay nearly $10 million in fines and forfeitures.
In its heyday, the firm Weiss co-founded -- once called Milberg Weiss and now known simply as Milberg LLC -- led shareholder suits against Brocade, Cisco, Nortel, Microsoft, Legato, Sun, Portal Software, and Box Hill Systems, to name a few.
According to a report in today's Wall Street Journal, Weiss's relatively heavy sentence could be the result of his reluctance to concede guilt early on. Weiss held out for months after former partners had been tried -- and he even allegedly conducted a final kickback transaction in 2003, after the initial investigation of his firm had begun. None of that went over well with the feds.
The future of Milberg LLC is also up in the air, pending further hearings.