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LOS ANGELES � As some of William Lerach’s biggest clients are evaluating their relationship with him in light of his recent announcement of possible retirement, a partner at his San Diego-based firm downplayed his significance to its future. “He is a high-profile figure, there is no doubt about that,” said Darren Robbins, name partner at Lerach, Coughlin, Stoia, Geller, Rudman & Robbins, noting that in 2 to 3 percent of the firm’s cases “he is an important factor.” But in more than 90% of the firm’s cases, “his involvement is not even nominal,” Robbins continued. “He’s not even involved in the prosecution of the cases.” Robbins’s comments come in response to recent statements made by two of the firm’s biggest clients, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the Regents of the University of California, that they are evaluating their relationship with Lerach in light of his retirement announcement. Last week, Lerach announced that he is considering retirement. His decision comes after federal prosecutors met with lawyers representing his former firm, now called Milberg Weiss & Bershad, and one of its name partners, David Bershad, to discuss a potential plea deal in an ongoing criminal investigation. While not indicted, Lerach and Melvyn Weiss, senior and founding partner of Milberg Weiss, are under investigation as part of the probe. If Bershad were to cooperate with prosecutors as part of a plea deal, the investigation could implicate Lerach, Weiss and Milberg Weiss. Lerach “is cognizant of the fact that although our firm has never been a target of this or any other investigation, the investigation should not become a distraction to our firm and its ongoing work,” according to his retirement announcement, which was issued by his firm. In light of Lerach’s potential retirement, or the possibility of an indictment against him, CalPERS is “evaluating the situation and how the events have evolved,” said Brad Pacheco, spokesman for CalPERS. “Obviously, there’s a difference between one person and the firm, and we’re very confident that the firm can continue to represent CalPERS in the two cases it does with us now.” Those two cases are a class action against UnitedHealth Group Inc. for alleged backdating of stock options and a complex trading-fraud securities action against the New York Stock Exchange. Meanwhile, the UC Regents, which is the lead plaintiff in a class action related to the fall of Enron Corp., is “monitoring the situation,” said UC counsel Christopher Patti. “The firm has many very experienced, skilled lawyers who have been working on the Enron case for years and years and years,” particularly name partner Patrick Coughlin and senior partner Helen Hodges, he said. “It’s our understanding that the firm is not under investigation.” Robbins downplayed Lerach’s role in those cases. He said that Lerach is one of six attorneys involved in the case against UnitedHealth. In the Enron-related case, more than 25 lawyers at Lerach Coughlin are involved, he said. He also said Lerach is not involved in the generation of cases. “I oversee that,” he said, adding that two new state funds were in the process of retaining the firm.

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