Milberg Weiss Client Cuts Plea Deal

Reports say the man took kickbacks from the securities class-action law firm and will cooperate with prosecutors.
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The government¿s investigation into securities class-action law firm Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman is getting hotter.

A former client of the firm has struck a plea agreement with prosecutors and will cooperate in the probe, according to weekend media reports.

Federal prosecutors say Howard Vogel, a retired real estate broker, accepted nearly $2.5 million in kickbacks from the New York law firm for agreeing to be lead plaintiff, or have his family members take that role, in some 40 class-action lawsuits against various companies,

The New York Times

reported Saturday.

Defendants in the suits included

Valero Energy

(VLO) - Get Report

,

Oxford Health Plans

and

Barnesandnoble.com

.

Vogel is the first person to plead guilty in the government¿s five-year investigation into Milberg Weiss,

The Wall Street Journal

reported.

In 2004, one of the law firm¿s founders, William Lerach, left after a dispute with co-founder Mel Weiss and started another firm, Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins.

In February, news reports said that the two would probably escape criminal prosecution in the federal probe, although the law firm they started could still be indicted. The

Times

report Saturday quoted lawyers in the case saying that two other Millberg Weiss partners -- David Bershad and Steven Schulman -- could receive indictments. The documents filed with Vogel's plea agreement did not mention any partners¿ names, the report said.

Milberg Weiss reportedly said it had not had an opportunity to review the documents related to the plea bargain but was cooperating with the investigation.