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The decision last week by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce to pay $2.4 billion to settle allegations that it helped disguise losses at Enron Corp. has raised the stakes for the seven remaining banks involved in the massive securities class action. But the recent decisions by CIBC, Citigroup Inc., and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. to pay multibillion-dollar settlements rather than go to trial must also give pause to another defendant in the case: Vinson & Elkins. Lead plaintiffs attorney William Lerach of Lerach, Coughlin, Stoia, Geller, Rudman & Robbins says his legal team is “taking depositions daily” in the case and that his firm is pursuing a policy of escalating the cost of settling through “brute force” negotiations. John Villa, the Williams & Connolly partner who represents Vinson & Elkins, declined to comment on whether the firm had opened settlement talks with Lerach. Villa says that the discovery process will continue through the fall in advance of a trial targeted for October 2006 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. It’s unlikely Lerach will have to worry about running out of resources ahead of the trial. If approved, the settlements to date will pay the plaintiffs firm nearly $700 million in legal fees.
Jason McLure can be contacted at [email protected]

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