Milberg Weiss, the lawsuit factory that took corporations for $45 billion, is in the feds' cross hairs. Fortune's Peter Elkind reports on the saga.
By Peter Elkind, Fortune editor-at-large
October 31 2006: 11:21 AM EST
(Fortune Magazine) -- For decades, few things have inspired as much fear and loathing in the executive suites of corporate America as the law firm of Milberg Weiss and the two outsized personalities who ruled the place, Mel Weiss and Bill Lerach. Through creativity and ruthlessness, they transformed the humble securities class-action lawsuit into a deadly weapon.
Always, Milberg Weiss cast itself as the champion of the little guy. In media interviews Lerach has spoken evocatively about fighting for the honest, struggling blue-collar worker who, through no fault of his own, had lost his hard-earned savings to corporate perfidy. The firm boasts of having collected $45 billion for cheated investors since its founding in 1965.
But somewhere along the way, the work made its ruling partners a little like the CEOs they sued.