Seymour Lazar, an entertainment lawyer and tool of notorious San Diego lawyer William Lerach (no longer practicing), has died in Palm Springs, as reported in various media. He was 88.
Lazar had been indicted in 2005 for multiple offenses, including mail fraud and money laundering. A Los Angeles grand jury said he took more than $2 million in kickbacks from the former law firm of Milberg Weiss, whose San Diego office, headed by Lerach, was the scourge of corporate America for filing multiple lawsuits against companies whose stocks had declined sharply. Eventually, Lerach went to prison. Lazar was convicted but didn't spend time behind bars because of his age and health.
Lazar was one of the "plaintiffs-for-hire" that the firm utilized. In those days of widespread class-action suits against companies, the first plaintiff to file a lawsuit controlled the suit — thus, the importance of a firm winning the "race to the courthouse." Lazar was one of the hired plaintiffs used by Lerach and the firm. Lazar bought small blocks of suits in a number of companies so he could jump in as soon as Lerach drew up a suit.
The 2010 book Circle of Greed, by former Union-Tribune reporters Patrick Dillon and Carl Cannon, is a detailed — but too-forgiving — account of Lerach and his antics.
As federal prosecutors were zeroing in on the firm in 2007, Lazar's daughter, Tara Lazar, was getting married near Bologna, Italy. Lerach talked his reluctant partner who ran the New York operation, Melvyn Weiss, into attending. According to the book, Lerach "grabbed [Seymour] Lazar by one tuxedoed arm and Weiss by the other and proposed loudly, 'Let's get a photograph of the three conspirators!' Weiss shrieked in horror and bolted."