Weiss, Melvyn I.

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WEISS, MELVYN I. (1935– ), U.S. lawyer. Born in the Bronx, n.y., and educated at City College's Baruch School and New York University Law School, Melvyn Irwin Weiss practiced law in New York while building his firm, Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, into the country's premier securities class-action law firm. Its lawyers became corporate America's most aggressive and nettlesome private legal adversaries. Weiss embodied one of Wall Street's worst nightmares: the shareholder lawsuit. He was one of the first to test a 1966 law that permitted them, and he became dean of the practice. Along the way, he forced Wall Street to be more accountable to investors. He won nearly $30 billion from more than 1,000 companies, including Prudential and Drexel Burnham Lambert as well as Charles Keating's failed savings and loan empire. His later targets included several public investment banks and Enron, the energy company that bilked states and others with false companies. Weiss also earned the enmity of the accounting profession for his long-standing accusations of laxity in corporate oversight, and accompanying lawsuits. After working together for nearly three decades Weiss and one of his partners, William S. Lerach, parted bitterly as both came under investigation by Federal prosecutors. Weiss was honored many times, and his awards included the Anti-Defamation League humanitarian award, the United Jewish Appeal's Proskauer award, and the B'nai B'rith of Argentina Dignity and Justice Award. He served as a director and member of the executive committee of the Israel Policy Forum and the American Jewish Congress.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]