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Bill Learch: A Case Of How The Mighty Have Fallen

Tuesday, 12 Feb 2008 | 2:04 PM ET
William Lerach

Bill Lerach was corporate America's worst nightmare. If there was anyone who could actually scare a CEO, he was the man. As an attorney who made millions suing companies on behalf of shareholders, he was known as "The Doberman" at the law firm Milberg Weiss, and he was proud of the title.

When I first met him in 2001, he was at the top of his game, almost giddy with the amount of potential litigation before him as the tech bubble burst. I had rarely met someone so committed and passionate.

Apparently, he was TOO committed and passionate. Yesterday, Lerach was sentenced to two years in federal prison (negotiated by plea agreement), fined $250,000, and ordered to forfeit $7.7 million. Lerach had admitted to hiring "plaintiffs" to use as the basis for filing suits, and then paying those plaintiffs kickbacks.

The first clip is Lerach outside court yesterday in Los Angeles--the voice you hear is CNBC producer Jeff Daniels.

Lerach Video

The judge said yesterday, "There were lies to federal court judges," and that Lerach practiced law "in the most evil way," (if that's the case, then two years is pretty light). Lerach told the courtroom, "I knew what I was doing was wrong...It was felony stupid."

Did he know it in the fall of 2001 when I profiled him? Judge for yourself. Check out the second clip as it aired back then.

Bill Lerach, "The Doberman"
Bill Lerach, a passionate litigator is sentenced to two years in federal prison hiring "plaintiffs" to use as the basis for filing suits, reports CNBC's Jane Wells

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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