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James Finberg jumped to the plaintiffs side of securities class actions just in time to play a leading role in several of the largest securities fraud cases in the 1990s. Finberg, 45, joined class action leader Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein in 1992. This followed a three-year stint as an associate at Morrison & Foerster, where he did mostly securities defense work. While some plaintiffs lawyers get a bad rap for clogging courts with frivolous litigation, Finberg is well respected by judges and defense attorneys for his cautious approach to pursuing cases. He is, attorneys and judges say, believable, straightforward and conscientious. “He’s able, smart, responsible and he doesn’t try to blow smoke in your face,” one Bay Area judge said. “And he’s cautious about the cases he brings.” He also has a winning record at Lieff Cabraser. He was the primary point person in a fraud class action against Media Vision Technology Corp. The firm was co-lead counsel in a consolidated case against the company, which was also a target of criminal and regulatory investigations. Finberg and his team gained a $28 million settlement. Finberg was the firm’s primary partner on the securities case against California Micro Devices Corp. The company was also the target of fraud suits and criminal action during the mid-1990s. At first, U.S. District Judge Vaughan Walker tossed Lieff Cabraser from representing parties in Cal Micro and rejected a proposed settlement. Walker was highly critical of the firm’s handling of settlement negotiations. But Finberg’s grace under pressure apparently impressed Walker enough to win Lieff Cabraser a slot back on the case — as local counsel for one of the plaintiffs. “What was admirable,” one judge said, “was that he agreed to stay on and work with the lead counsel [after Lieff was booted from the case]. I admire the statesman-like way he handled himself.” Securities fraud cases haven’t been as much fun since federal laws governing such suits changed in 1995, Finberg said. Still, Finberg said he gets more satisfaction from his work as a plaintiffs lawyer than he did at MoFo. “I feel more comfortable on the plaintiffs side,” Finberg said. “I feel like I’m helping people.”

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