Coughlin Stoia and the Angelides Commission (Updated)

You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

Buried at the end of a WSJ story today are more revelations about the close ties between a San Diego law firm and former California Treasurer Phil Angelides, who chairs the U.S. Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.

Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins’ filed suit in July 2006 against UnitedHealth Group on behalf of CalPERS, the giant California pension fund.

A month later, Coughlin Stoia and its attorneys contributed $107,000 to the gubernatorial campaign of Phil Angelides, who was a member of Calpers’s board.

Asked whether the donations were related to the hiring of the law firm, a spokeswoman for Mr. Angelides declined to say, but said that Mr. Angelides “was one of a number of members of the Calpers board and he had tens of thousands of donations during the eight years he was treasurer.”

The UnitedHealth suit was settled in August for $925 million. Calpers’s share of that came to $3.2 million.

The legal fee was $65 million. Most of it went to Coughlin Stoia.

Angelides received about $250,000 in total contributions for his failed gubernatorial campaign in 2006 from Coughlin Stoia lawyers:

  • Byron Georgiou, a commissioner on the Angelides panel, is of counsel to Coughlin Stoia, serving as the “primary liaison” with a number of the firm’s main institutional clients.
  • Georgiou, who’s based in Las Vegas, gave $44,600 to Angelides for Governor, according to campaign finance records.
  • Nearly half of that came after Coughlin Stoia was picked to represent CalPERS in the UnitedHealthcare lawsuit.

Christopher Seefer, a Coughlin Stoia partner, was appointed by Angelides to serve as the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission’s assistant director and deputy general counsel.

Coughlin Stoia was formed in 2004 when the high-profile securities-litigation firm Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach split up.

Bill Lerach was sentenced to two years in prison for paying cash kickbacks to plaintiffs in an effort to gain control of big lawsuits and win larger fees in 150 cases over 20 years. His partner in crime, Melvyn Weiss, got two and a half years.

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