Some lawyers do great things. For example, they clear the innocent. Or they fight for civil rights. These good souls are not motivated by money but justice. Ariana Tadler is not one of the noble lawyers but instead belongs to the useless class. She sits as one of the five partners on the Executive Committee at plaintiffs firm Milberg LLP in New York, and plots to find cases which she can use as a vehicle to earn attorneys' fees. Sometimes the cases may appear to be in "the public interest" but often they're more accurately characterized as money-grubbing exercises.
Take for example the so-called false labeling case which Ariana Tadler and Milberg LLP brought against Frito-Lay. The chip maker had stamped "all natural" on its product bags, and apparently some of the salty treats may have had GMO corn. Oh, my! Well, Ariana swooped in like supergirl with her class action lawsuit, and after five years of litigation has reached a settlement with the perceived villain to rescue aggrieved consumers from this horrible wrong as reported by Law360: "Frito-Lay has removed claims that the products are made with all-natural ingredients and has agreed not to label them as 'all natural' as long as they include GMO ingredients." But the consumers could not have been too injured by the earlier labeling because the class does not get a single penny even as Ariana and her lawyer friends score $2.1 million in attorneys' fees and expenses. Now there's a real social justice warrior in action for you!
Maybe Ariana Tadler is not capable of anything more than useless work. After all, she's not the brightest bulb, and seemingly a tad clueless. Heck, she once worked alongside racketeers and -- shock -- the poor girl didn't even know it! In 1997 Ariana Tadler had joined Milberg LLP in its prior incarnation, and in 2006 the law firm was indicted by federal prosecutors for an alleged decades-long scheme in which serial plaintiffs were illegally paid kickbacks out of the attorneys' fees for filing their lawsuits. Several heavy-weight partners including firm founder Mel Weiss were convicted on racketeering conspiracy for their roles and sent to prison, and the firm itself settled the criminal case by paying a $75 million fine and hiring a compliance monitor for two years according to a Department of Justice press release: "the settlement with Milberg reflects the seriousness of what was probably the longest-running scheme ever conducted by a law firm," said United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien, and "the monetary payment will punish the firm for allowing this conduct to occur."
At the time of the June 2008 settlement between Milberg and the feds Sanford Dumain said: "We can now say to courts and clients that we are not a firm under indictment," and "we needed an understanding from the government that no one currently at the firm had any knowledge of the wrongdoing." Similarly, speaking on the integrity of the remaining partners at Milberg, Ariana Tadler stated: "The lawyers that stayed were not implicated or involved in the indictment, and we are going to work just as aggressively as we always have to do the best for our clients."
And yet notwithstanding their innocence the question still begged is whether some of those remaining partners had suspicions about the scheme prior to the indictment and what, if any, steps they took to address the problem. After all, what did they think was happening when the same individuals repeatedly were serving as plaintiffs in dozens of lawsuits? The federal investigation into Milberg Weiss commenced in 1999 -- two years after Ariana Tadler gained employment there -- but unflattering press about "professional plaintiffs" had been written about the firm going back to 1992 as reported by Peter Elkind for Fortune magazine. Indeed, in 1995, Congress enacted the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act specifically for the purpose of curbing the abuses for which Milberg and several of its partners were indicted, and surely this legislation raised a red flag even among the innocents at the firm. After all, isn't the specialty of the lawyers at Milberg to root out such things? Maybe some of these lawyers should find another line of work after missing the crimes that apparently were occurring for decades right under their proverbial noses. And what then was the need for federal prosecutors to install a compliance monitor at Milberg? Perhaps operating under the trust-but-verify principle. So Ariana Tadler was innocent but what does her ignorance say about her capabilities? It's a fair question. I can just hear her hypothetical response: "If I have one fault, it's that I trust too much."
Milberg Weiss has been the subject of controversy beyond its use of professional plaintiffs. For example, in 1999 a federal jury found that Milberg Weiss "had abused the legal process to discredit" the reputation of consulting firm Lexecon Inc., and awarded the injured company $45 million in compensatory damages as reported by Melody Peterson for The New York Times:
Before the jury could decide whether punitive damages should be added to that amount, the two sides talked through the night, reaching the $50 million settlement yesterday morning. The settlement takes the place of the $45 million jury verdict. ''The biggest and most powerful class-action plaintiff's firm was found liable for abuse of process,'' said Alan N. Salpeter, a lawyer at Mayer, Brown & Platt in Chicago, which represents Lexecon. ''This sends a message that lawyers should not abuse the law.''
Apparently "at the trial, several Milberg Weiss partners testified," and "after the verdict, one juror was quoted in the press as saying that the 'Milberg Weiss lawyers were not truthful'" according to a case summary ("Lexecon Wins $50 Million Settlement From Milberg Weiss") by Mayer, Brown & Platt. Ariana Tadler already had been at the Milberg firm for two years at the time of the Lexecon verdict, and not withstanding its damning assessment the clueless Tadler continued to remain there apparently oblivious to the seriousness of the ongoing racketeering investigation into it by federal prosecutors. Talk about ignoring red flags.
There just seems to be no end to how clueless Ariana Tadler has been as a partner with Milberg. Heck, did she even know that allegedly illegal gay S/M sex club El Mirage was operating out of a building owned by her then-fellow partner Paul David Young, and that it seemingly was tied to longtime nightlife operator Robert DeBenedictis? Funny too that Ariana Tadler's onetime partner and convicted racketeer Mel Weiss apparently invested in one of the gay enterprises of a DeBenedictis crony.
Robert DeBenedictis has engaged in financial transactions with individuals who have done business with once-alleged Mafia-tied figures. A corporate entity involving Robert DeBenedictis borrowed money from Frank Biancaniello pursuant to a mortgage agreement. Frank Biancaniello also has provided mortgage loans to companies in which Lorenzo DeVardo and Dominick Acquista are involved. Dominick Acquista was identified by the FBI as a Gambino associate in the past, and Lorenzo DeVardo once pleaded guilty to possessing a pistol and silencer in the so-called Pizza Connection case. Others who have executed mortgage agreements involving DeVardo are companies affiliated with Bernard Paige which also provided mortgage loans for some properties owned by companies tied to suspected Genovese associate Jennie Tobin who operated gay bars out of the premises.
Both Robert DeBenedictis and Frank Biancaniello have provided mortgage loans through separate agreements to companies controlled by Salvatore Gaudio and his father Nicola a/k/a Luigi. Salvatore was busted in 1999 pursuant to an elaborate sting for allegedly failing to pay sales taxes on bottled beer out of an establishment he owned, and he later "pleaded guilty to offering a false instrument for filing in the second degree, and was given a conditional discharge contingent on his making restitution to the state and city of his sales taxes." In October 1987 the father and son together executed a mortgage agreement involving nearly a million dollars with now-deceased Gambino underboss Giuseppe "Joseph" Arcuri in connection with their purchase of 1496 Second Avenue from the mobster. One corporate entity involving a downtown property in which Salvatore Gaudio had an ownership interest identified as the company's address an office suite at 227 East 56th Street in a public filing which is a property in which DeBenedictis has had an ownership interest and out of where gay bathhouse East Side Club operates.
These days plaintiffs' attorneys from Milberg LLP are busy "appealing a decision by a Massachusetts federal judge to dismiss a False Claims Act lawsuit" against Forest Laboratories as reported by Forbes: "Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV dismissed the case on April 28, ruling attorneys at Milberg LLP who represented a whistleblower participated in 'an elaborate series of falsehoods, misrepresentation, and deceptive conduct.'"
Judge Saylor found that Milberg LLP "devised and implemented an elaborate scheme of misrepresentation and deceit under the guise of a legitimate medical research study" in order "to elicit confidential patient information from doctors about their practices prescribing Forest's Alzheimer's disease drug Namenda" for the firm's use in filing a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company as reported by Reuters.
Professor Nancy J. Moore, a professor of legal ethics at Boston University, said "I have no knowledge whether any disciplinary actions are being undertaken against the attorneys, but I strongly believe they should be" because "Judge Saylor's findings of fact clearly indicate serious violations of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct."
In addition to getting Milberg's lawsuit against it dismissed, Forest Laboratories has "urged the court to further punish the firm for its deception" by requiring the trial lawyers to reimburse the drugmaker for "more than $6 million in attorneys' fees" incurred over three years in defending the now-dismissed lawsuit as reported by Law360:
"Compared to other cases in which fees and costs have been awarded, Milberg's conduct stands out as a shocking example of a deliberate and extensive scheme to deceive, manufacture evidence and misappropriate and publicly expose sensitive medical information," the motion states. "As such, the requested relief is fully warranted under applicable precedent and, indeed, is critical to sending a sufficiently robust message of deterrence that will safeguard physicians and patients, protect defendants from substantial litigation costs and reputational damage caused by similarly vexatious FCA claims and make Forest whole as the injured party."
You know, it always seems if it's not one thing then it's another at that stinkin' law firm Milberg! And Ariana Tadler just keeps smiling. Heck, as long as the money keeps rolling in she's as happy as a pig in shit. Oink! Oink!
Further reading that may be of interest: