5 August 1959 (age 61), Brooklyn, New York, United States
Perry Weitz is an American attorney and partner at the Manhattan law firm Weitz & Luxenberg, which he co-founded in 1986. He is also the co-chairman of Counsel Financial, a financing company that gives loans to small law firms that specialize in personal injury. In 2015, Weitz and his firm were caught in a scandal involving referral fees for asbestos victims via kickbacks to New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was convicted on corruption and bribery charges.
- Perry weitz speaking at mtmp 2014 in las vegas
- Morris Eisen
- Asbestos litigation
- Politics campaign contributions and Sheldon Silver
Perry weitz speaking at mtmp 2014 in las vegas
In his bio on the Weitz & Luxenberg website, the law firm writes: “It can cause even the most ruthless corporate CEO to tug nervously at his shirt collar and gulp hard when told that squaring off against him in court will be the brawny, knock-out-king of a law firm co-founded in 1986 by super attorney Perry Weitz, Esq.”
Weitz started the law firm with an asbestos lawsuit. He sued on behalf of 36 workers who became sick after working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. His suit got his clients $75 million. Of that $75 million, $22.5 million went to Weitz. The firm now makes 60 percent of its revenue from litigation related to asbestos cases.
According to the New York Times:
The law practice has supported an opulent lifestyle for the firm’s founders. Mr. Weitz, for instance, owns a seven-bedroom, nine-and-a-half-bathroom home on 509 acres just outside Aspen, Colo.
Weitz's first job was at Morris Eisen, P.C., a law firm. In the 1990s, seven attorneys, investigators and office workers from Morris Eisen were convicted for a variety of crimes all centered around faking evidence. The defendants all appealed, and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions.
In confirming the convictions, the court wrote:
The methods by which the frauds were accomplished included pressuring accident witnesses to testify falsely, paying individuals to testify falsely that they had witnessed accidents, paying unfavorable witnesses not to testify, and creating false photographs, documents, and physical evidence of accidents for use before and during trial.
Perry Weitz was never charged or convicted. Morris Eisen, Weitz’s father-in-law, served three years in prison.
Among the countless numbers of asbestos trust funds, seven of them paid $2.4 billion in claims in 2008. Those payments amounted to $600 million in legal fees for the lawyers representing the plaintiffs. Within the asbestos litigation system, advisory committees exist to advocate for payments for plaintiffs. The committees usually oppose advocates who would preserve trust fund resources for the future. Weitz served on six of these committees. The interests of current and future claimants clash; current claimants want their payment at full value and quickly, while future claimants want to preserve the trust assets until they can apply for their own compensation.
In a 2002 article by The New York Times, “A Surge in Asbestos Suits, Many by Healthy Plaintiffs,” a law professor at Yeshiva University, Lester Brickman, said, "Sick people with legitimate claims represent a tiny fraction of the claims being brought.” In response, Weitz was quoted in the article as saying, "Juries throughout the United States have said that these people deserve compensation . . . You really have to have faith in the jury system."
Politics, campaign contributions and Sheldon Silver
Weitz is a director of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. The association is "a heavy lobbying presence in Albany," according to The New York Times.
In 2010, Kathleen M. Rice, the Nassau County district attorney, ran for New York state attorney general. In 2009, Rice hired Weitz's son, Justin Weitz, as an assistant district attorney. In the 2010 election cycle, Weitz and his partner, along with three other attorneys at Weitz & Luxenberg, contributed a total of $236,698 to Rice's campaign.
In November 2015, Sheldon Silver, the former speaker of the New York State Assembly, was convicted on bribery and corruption charges. Silver sent $500,000 in state money to an oncologist who in return referred patients to Weitz & Luxenberg. Here is how the arrangement worked:
- Silver steered $500,000 in state grants to fund the asbestos research of Dr. Robert N. Taub, Director of Columbia University’s Mesothelioma Center.
- Dr. Taub, in turn, referred his patients to Perry Weitz's law firm.
- Weitz's firm, in turn, paid Silver $3.9 million for referrals plus $1.4 million in salary, "though he never performs legal work," wrote the New York Times.