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For Mel Lifshitz, Trust Is a Two-Way Street

TheStreet.com, which publishes this Web site, was one of the 309 dot-com defendants that signed on to the partial $1 billion settlement in the so-called IPO class action.

No Interest

In a series of email exchanges, Lifshitz downplayed the significance of the charitable trusts' investments in Colbart Birnet. He said any suggestion of a conflict of interest involving himself, or his law firm, is simply wrong.

"I do not have any interest -- minority or otherwise -- in Colbart Birnet L.P. A charity of which I am a trustee does,'' says Lifshitz. "I do not benefit from the charity and I am not a beneficial owner of it."

Lifshitz says the law firm recently contacted Roy Simon, a law professor who specializes in legal ethics, about its dealings with Colbart Birnet, and the professor "reiterated our advice that the firms' conduct fully complied with all ethical and legal obligations."

Simon, the Howard Lichtenstein distinguished professor of legal ethics at Hofstra University School of Law, says he sees no potential for a conflict of interest involving the investments by the charitable trusts in Colbart Birnet. Simon says he was recently retained by Bernstein Liebhard to advise it on the Colbart Birnet situation.

"This is not something that worries me from a conflict perspective,'' says Simon. "I can't understand why this would have an impact on his judgment.''

Simon says he sees no potential quid pro quo in the investments by the charitable trusts because Colbart Birnet was a client of the law firm before the investments were made.

Three Entities

Delaware corporate records reveal three entities bearing the Colbart Birnet name: Colbart Birnet Asset Management, Colbart Birnet II and Colbart Birnet IV. Colbert Birnet II is the one that received investments from the Lifshitz and Bernstein Liebhard family trusts. In the Federated case, Colbart Birnet, Colbart Birnet II and Colbart Birnet IV are listed as plaintiffs represented by Bernstein Leibhard.

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