San Diego’s Bill Lerach was a man who inspired fear and loathing in corporate boardrooms across America. Lerach ran the West Coast operations of Milberg Weiss and was for many years the foremost class-action securities lawyer in America.
He extracted settlements in the millions, even tens of millions of dollars. That earned him powerful enemies. Congress tried to rein him in by overriding a presidential veto in 1995 to pass what became known as the “Get Lerach Act.” But he went on to lead the biggest class-action lawsuit in history, the University of California’s $7.2 billion judgment against Enron Corp.
In 2008, Lerach was sentenced to two years in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to conceal kickbacks paid to plaintiffs. The 64-year-old Lerach spoke with us not long after he finished serving his prison sentence, part of which was spent in home confinement at his La Jolla mansion.
You cooperated with the authors of Circle of Greed, the book that chronicles your rise and fall. How fairly did the book portray you?
The book is tough on me. It’s hard to write a book as long as that book is and not have some mistakes in it. I know and respect the authors very much and thought it was a very legitimate effort. Overall, I’m satisfied with it. Everyone wishes every book written about them portrayed them uniformly but I guess in my case that’s not possible.