The Lerach solution

By Matt Miller

My wife Jody has the perfect answer to how we can get some crazy bank executives to disgorge the ill-gotten bonuses they've paid themselves even while they're on the taxpayer dole: the feds need to hire Bill Lerach to bring their case. Lerach, you'll recall, is the premiere shareholder suit litigator/corporate shakedown artist in the country. The only problem is that he's in jail right now, serving time because his law firm paid plaintiffs illegally in his assorted class actions over the years.

Whatever else you may think of Lerach, the guy scares corporate America, and he knows how to use that fear to get big settlements for his clients. Today the U.S. government is the client that needs him, in its role as major shareholder of all these badly behaving banks. Lerach's skills are too perfect for this moment for him to be paying his debt to society sitting in some country-club federal prison. Let Lerach reduce his time by bringing the cases that are tailor-made for his particular brand of hardball.

Until now the president's men have made wimpy noises about it likely being "hard" or "impossible" to claw back these recent bonuses. Sic Lerach on them and this entire conversation will change overnight.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/02/the-lerach-solution/254/