A spokesman for Optionable says the information about the beneficial owners of Colbart Birnet was provided by the limited partnership. However, the spokesman said the company recently was informed that some of that information may be incorrect.
Still, it's not the only discrepancy that has appeared in official documents involving Colbart Birnet. A federal court docket search found 18 lawsuits in which Bernstein Liebhard was representing a lead plaintiff named "Colbert Birnet." In those cases, the name of the partnership was spelled with an "e,'' rather than an "a.'' Lifshitz, in explaining the discrepancy, says it "is simply a typographical error.'' The "typographical error" is reflected in a June 2003 declaration in a case captioned Colbert Birnet II vs. Guidant. On the signature section of the declaration, "Colbert Birnet II" is typed in beneath an illegible handwritten signature. There is at least one other misspelling of Colbart in official documents. In the 2003 federal tax return for the Bernstein Liehbard law firm's charitable trust -- The BL Squared Foundation -- Colbart is spelled "Colbirt.'' Perino, the St. John's professor, notes that there are provisions in class-action securities law that put limits on how many times an investor may serve as lead plaintiff in such cases. According to him, an investor cannot serve as a lead plaintiff in more than five class actions in any three-year period.
The question of plaintiff autonomy came up 14 years ago in the dealings of Richard Greenfield, who in his time was one of the most successful securities class-action lawyers in the country. Greenfield came under fire for filing lawsuits on behalf of companies he had a controlling interest in. In response to Greenfield's tactics, some federal judges tossed out his lawsuits. In one proceeding, a New Jersey federal judge ordered a disciplinary investigation after it was discovered that one of the plaintiffs was a so-called shell company controlled by Greenfield.