Power Suits: William S. Lerach (#2)
After Bill Clinton dined with Lerach, who makes millions suing Silicon Valley companies, the president suddenly dropped tort reform.
William S. Lerach and wife Star Soltan, San Diego, Calif. Donated $480,043 since 1993. Party: D. They gave $320,000 in soft money to the Democrats, $53,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Fund, and $65,342 to 66 candidates, nearly all Democrat. View Lerach's itemized contributions according to the MoJo 400 searchable database.
By W. John Moore
Attendees at a private White House dinner on December 15 may have seen Bill Clinton and William Lerach speaking and shaking hands. What they probably didn't notice was Lerach twisting the president's arm.
Four days later, the president vetoed the Securities Litigation Reform Act. The bill, which makes it more difficult for shareholders to sue their own companies for securities fraud, enjoyed wide bipartisan support, but Clinton startled his party with a last-minute veto. (In late December, Congress overrode the veto handily.)
Clinton's veto seems to have been a "good faith" gesture to Lerach, head of the San Diego office of law firm Milberg, Weiss, Bershad, Hynes & Lerach. Milberg Weiss, the acknowledged leader in shareholder class-action litigation, secures annual settlements estimated at $225 million from this type of suit, according to the newsletter Securities Class Action Alert.
Though most consumer groups opposed the Securities Litigation Reform Act, the bill was generally popular with the public as well as with Congress. But Milberg Weiss is difficult to ignore, especially if you're a Democrat. Lerach, wife Star Soltan, and other associates of Milberg Weiss (such as #24 Melvyn Weiss and #325 Leonard Simon) have poured more than $1 million into Democratic coffers since 1990.
According to Forbes, Lerach is among the nations' top-paid trial attorneys, taking home an estimated $7 million per year. He is also among the most loathed men in Silicon Valley, where vacillating stock prices open the door for shareholders to sue companies if executives make incorrect predictions of corporate success. Milberg Weiss has filed such suits agains the likes of Apple, Silicon Graphics, and Intel (five times in 1994 alone). "The high-tech industry needs someone to demonize," Lerach once told the San Francisco Examiner. "I'm the Willie Horton of securities law."
So who is donor #3?