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Imagining Daniel Fischel working for Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach is a bit like picturing Al Gore campaigning for George Bush. But in the case of Fischel and Milberg Weiss — once bitter enemies — that’s what has happened. Sort of. The history between Milberg Weiss and Fischel, a University of Chicago Law School professor and head of the economic consulting firm Lexecon Inc., is well known because of their nuclear battles in court. Things started to get heated in 1991, in the litigation over the failed Lincoln Savings & Loan, when Milberg Weiss sued a long list of defendants. Among the targets were Fischel and Lexecon, which Milberg Weiss included for allegedly giving Lincoln a false bill of good health before it was seized by federal regulators. Fischel claimed that Milberg Weiss had chosen to attack him because his expert testimony had helped defeat the firm in a prior case. Eventually, Lexecon was dismissed from Milberg Weiss’ suit. But instead of going away quietly, Fischel proceeded to sue the firm for bringing an allegedly abusive suit. The personal vitriol between the two was on full display during the 1999 trial in Chicago federal court. In one of the most famous scenes, partner William Lerach had to deny allegations that he told colleagues he wanted to “put the little fucker out of business” with the Lincoln suit. Details about Milberg Weiss’ finances also came to light during the trial. Jurors — as well as the defense bar — took notice that Lerach and Melvyn Weiss were each taking home about $12 million a year. The day after the jury awarded Lexecon $45 million in compensatory damages, with punitives yet to come, Milberg Weiss settled for $50 million. The epic feud makes the present arrangement all the more surprising. In the massive IPO “laddering” class action cases in New York federal court, the plaintiffs’ executive committee, chaired by Melvyn Weiss, has retained Lexecon. That news came as a disappointment to some defense lawyers in the cases who were interested in hiring Fischel. But more than anything it came as a shock. How did it happen? Fischel’s hiring was done by two firms on the plaintiffs’ executive committee, New York-based class action firms Sirota & Sirota and Lovell Stewart Halebian (Lovell Stewart is an ex officio member of the committee). Howard Sirota had deposed Fischel in a securities fraud case against Crazy Eddie Inc. in the early 1990s. He was impressed with Fischel and subsequently talked to him about working together. The opportunity came with the regulatory investigations into technology company IPOs. Sirota contacted Fischel to help him and Lovell Stewart with their cases. After the plaintiffs formed an executive committee– including Milberg Weiss — Sirota made his argument for keeping Fischel. “He’s a guy who can’t be impeached by the defendants,” says Sirota. The argument was apparently good enough, but Lexecon’s engagement for the plaintiffs doesn’t seem to have brought Milberg Weiss and Fischel much closer together. They won’t discuss their relationship. “As to who hired us, you’ll have to ask [the plaintiffs' committee],” says Fischel. Weiss was equally mum, but for this advice: “You better not write that Milberg hired Lexecon. I’ll tell you that right now.” Duly noted. It apparently takes more than four years to heal a $50 million wound.

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