Class action specialists Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman has lost another two partners, the heads of its competition team, to New York class action boutique Pomerantz Haudek Block Grossman & Gross.
Antitrust partners Douglas Richards and Michael Buchman will join the 10-partner boutique in March from Milberg Weiss, the most recent of a string of defections from the firm since it was indicted in May 2006 for allegedly sharing legal fees with plaintiffs in class-action cases.
Although Richards and Buchman had joint responsibility for the Milberg’s New York competition team, Milberg is insisting that it still has antitrust litigation capability.
A spokesperson said: “Milberg Weiss will continue to prosecute antitrust cases.” Name partner Melvyn Weiss and partner Robert Wallner — both known more for their securities litigation expertise — are being fielded to fill the hole.
Richards and Buchman were jointly responsible for Milberg’s antitrust practice, which had been prominent. Both partners were involved in the massive Visa and Mastercard antitrust class action in 2005, which managed to recover over $3bn — the largest antitrust settlement ever. In that case, merchant plaintiffs, such as Wal-Mart and Safeway claimed that they were forced to accept Visa’s and Mastercard’s debit cards in addition to their credit cards.
Pomerantz senior partner Stanley Grossman said: “Doug Richards and Mike Buchman are highly respected, exceptionally skilled lawyers who will be terrific additions to the firm’s expanding litigation practice.”
Meanwhile, Milberg Weiss still faces charges of paying over $11.4m in kickbacks to three plaintiffs over 25 years. As well as the firm, name partners David Bershad and Steven Schulman have been charged. They are all fighting the claims. Schulman resigned from the firm in December.
In addition to Schulman, the firm has suffered a spate of defections in the wake of the indictment, including former name partner Patricia Hynes, who went to Allen & Overy (as reported in www.thelawyer.com, 24 August 2006).