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LOS ANGELES — Securities class action king William S. Lerach, who has been in plea talks with federal prosecutors pursuing a criminal investigation into kickbacks, announced today he plans to retire on Aug. 31 from the firm he founded. Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins will be known as Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins. In a press release, the San Diego-based firm stated that Lerach is stepping down to focus his “time and energy” on the criminal investigation while giving the firm the ability to “move forward with its work.” “I have appreciated the opportunity to fight for the victims of corporate fraud; however, I realized that my success has made me a target,” Lerach said in a statement. “These allegations have proven to be personally time-consuming, and I have decided to focus single-mindedly on putting the matter behind me once and for all.” The criminal case alleges that Milberg Weiss and two of its former partners, Steven Schulman and David Bershad, collected $200 million in attorney fees by paying secret and illegal kickbacks to named plaintiffs. Last month, Lerach, who left Milberg Weiss in 2004, and Melvyn Weiss, senior and founding partner of Milberg Weiss, reportedly rejected a plea deal with prosecutors. Neither has been charged. At a recent hearing, prosecutors indicated that the original indictment could be amended. Lerach Coughlin, which has nearly 160 attorneys, has served as lead counsel in nearly 150 cases and recovered more than $45 billion on behalf of clients, including victims of fraud at Enron. Patrick Coughlin, John Stoia, Darren Robbins, Mike Dowd, Helen Hodges and Keith Park will manage the firm’s San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston offices. Paul Geller and Sam Rudman will manage the firm’s New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Boca Raton, Fla., offices.

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