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Sheldon Silver: The Rest of the Fracking Story

Sheldon SilverTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.

Sheldon Silver appears to be going down after recklessly collecting millions in referral fees he didn’t deserve. He was also a fractivist playing the system.

Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the New York State General Assembly was arrested yesterday, indicted for, among other things, his activities in collecting referral fees from the trial lawyer firm of Weitz and Luxenberg where he is listed as being of counsel. You can read about it here, here and here. Make no mistake, this indictment is a direct result of Andrew Cuomo’s nixing of the Moreland Commission, which was created to deal with government corruption and then disposed of when it got too close to his own office and that of Speaker Sheldon Silver.

US Attorneys just love high-profile prosecutions that lay the groundwork for their own political careers (think Rudy Guliani and Dick Thornburgh). Moreover, the fact Sheldon Silver had questionable sources of income is common knowledge. What is less well known, though, is that Weitz and Luxenberg has been one of those firms eager to cash in fracking as a target of lawsuits.

sheldon silver

Readers of NaturalGasNOW.org are smarter than the average bear and one of them, Frank Chernaga (a guest blogger here), noticed something about the firm from which Sheldon Silver was collecting unusual referral fees. He picked up on the fact Silver’s law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, was hustling fracking lawsuits in this piece issued by the firm some five years ago (excerpts below):

Weitz & Luxenberg Alerts Public to Potential Hazards of Hydraulic Fracturing

Controversial drilling process may be polluting residential drinking water

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Weitz & Luxenberg (www.weitzlux.com) would like American families to consider the following: Imagine you invested your life savings into a home — only to find that a controversial type of gas drilling operation called “hydraulic fracturing” or “fracking” is taking place near your neighborhood and could ultimately contaminate your drinking water, endanger your health, and depreciate the value of your property…

The attorneys in the Environmental and Toxic Torts unit at Weitz & Luxenberg P.C. would like for you to know that you have a right to live in a safe, clean, and uncontaminated environment. Together, we can protect that right.

“There’s a rush on to exploit favorable market conditions for natural gas,” observed Lem Srolovic, an attorney in the Environmental unit. “Unfortunately, gas companies and their well service providers appear all too often willing to place communities and the environment at risk. But those companies must conform to a standard of reasonable care for the communities in which they operate. Where gas extraction injures health or damages property, they should be held accountable,” Mr. Srolovic stated.

People who have been affected by hydraulic fracking may get a free legal review by visiting our website, www.weitzlux.com

Don’t you just love how these ambulance chasers shamelessly pursue business? Here is another example of how they go about it and you can read more here. And, for still more insights on how they work, their connections to Ralph Nader and his PIRG groups, the role of Jay Halfon (who ran both NYSTLA and NY-PIRG) and their network of relationships with powerful politicians in both parties, read this helpful history. It’s an eye-opener on the sleazy world of these parasites (not that the world doesn’t need trial lawyers, but New York’s brand are a special bunch).

sheldon silver

NYSTLA President John Powers with New York State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R) and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D)

The New York Post ran a story a few years back called “Shelly’s $hale Game” about how it all worked in the case of Sheldon Silver. Here’s an excerpt:

As Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver leads the fight to block a type of natural-gas drilling in New York, his private law firm is in other states trying to drum up multimillion-dollar lawsuits against the practice, The Post has found.

The speaker’s massive Manhattan-based personal-injury law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, plans a pair of public forums this week in Pennsylvania and West Virginia to “listen to the concerns of the community, share information and discuss legal options” about the gas-exploration phenomenon known as “hydrofracking” or “fracking”…

Silver (D-Manhattan) — citing risks of water contamination by chemical byproducts from the process — has emerged as a leading foe to expanded natural-gas drilling, which proponents argue could improve New York’s energy independence and revive upstate’s long-stagnant economy.

Last month, former Gov. David Paterson extended an environmental review period after vetoing a six-month ban shepherded through the Assembly by Silver.

Drilling advocates, government watchdog groups and even some Democrats say Weitz & Luxenberg’s anti-drilling push, which follows a similar forum last month in Pennsylvania, raises questions about the powerful speaker’s independence on the high-stakes issue.

“You have the speaker highlighting the alleged danger of hydrofracturing at the same time the law firm that’s paying him is out looking for clients interested in suing over the issue,” said a prominent Democrat who has frequent contact with Silver.

Silver’s firm has a number of fracking lawsuit appeals on it’s website (see here, here and here, for example) but now includes a caveat:

“Weitz & Luxenberg is no longer taking fracking cases. This content provided for informational purposes only.”

Why, then, curious minds want to know, are they leaving the articles up on their website? Well, perhaps it’s because they can do referrals just like their counsel Sheldon Silver did and earn a lot of money for doing nothing. It’s surely no accident the bottom of each article offers this or something similar:

“If your community has been affected by fracking, we may be able to help. Please complete the form below for a free legal review of your potential environmental lawsuit. A representative of our firm will be in touch shortly.”

After all, Sheldon Silver and the partners at Weitz & Luxenberg, in an incredibly seedy affair, went so far as to loan money at exorbitant interest rates to finance 9/11 lawsuits by Napoli and Bern, that other pack of philandering trial lawyers who failed so miserably in Dimock and with that case against Anschutz. Is it any stretch of the imagination to suppose they would look to do the same in the case of fracking lawsuits – just finance them at high profit and collect referral fees while others do the dirty work? Hardly.

Sheldon Silver

Weitz & Luxenberg advertisement for “Community Information Meeting” (client hustling meeting) on fracking in West Virginia .

These are the sort of shenanigans that have landed Sheldon Silver in a whole lot of trouble. They demonstrate the utter corruption of New York State government, which is endemic. As I was discussing with a New Yorker yesterday, it is so ingrained no one involved there thinks of it as corruption (much like Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties in Pennsylvania or Cook County, Illinois). Andrew Cuomo is not far from the fray either, as this article notes. It was his action in shutting down the Moreland Commission that prompted the more intense look at Sheldon Silver. The ambitious Federal prosecutor is on the hunt and none too pleased with Cuomo.

Could it be a twofer? Given the corrupt and patently phony nature of what Cuomo did to the Southern Tier, one hopes so. Regardless, it looks like one sleazy fractivist politician is on the way out the door.

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20 thoughts on “Sheldon Silver: The Rest of the Fracking Story

  1. Pingback: Sheldon Silver: The Rest of the Fracking Story | ShaleNOW

  2. Well hey governments it seems are about creating crisis to mobilize the population to be fleeced from their tax dollars . Would it surprize one that Cuomo a lawyer would have a fellow trial lawyer caught in such a dilemma ? Crony anti capitalism at its worst really

  3. Tom, hopefully Sheldon Silver will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law along with his planted marionette of a governor, Andrew Cuomo. We now know what was the driving source of Cuomo’s irrational behavior and his refusal to even discuss the issue of natural gas drilling. He already had his marching orders, Sheldon Silver style, and no further discussion was needed, especially from the targeted landowners. This disgraceful and malicious class warfare style scheme, targeting New York State Landowners should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. This is unprecedented, not only was the governor involved in the scheme, but he also appears to be a ringleader too.

  4. Outstanding piece, Tom!! Let’s hope that Preet Bharara nails Cuomo next. It seems almost inevitable as he and Silver were so close and called all the shots on legislation. Once the Moreland Commission was getting too close to Silver, he went to his goombah Cuomo to call off the dogs. If this is how it went down, Cuomo is done for. Frack now NY!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Tom: I already posted, but I got an idea. Considering your media contacts, it would seem that the NY POST, Fred Dicker, or Bill O’Reilly of FOX news would be intensely interested in this revelation. Seems like it would be worth a try to contact them. I was considering doing it myself, but you are far more well known and reputable to boot. Just a thought….

    • Hey Frank, I already passed the buisness wire article outlining the Weitz and Luxenberg piece to Fred Dicker. I think if we can get it to Fox News it would be brilliant!

  6. SHELDON: Listen up! Cuomo won’t pardon you….. turn USA Informant on the low life coward and bargain with Preet… Throw Cuomo under the bus he plans on throwing you under!!!!

  7. Its about time this crook was put away – I had a friend with a business and they wanted some laws passed – he said basically you rented a table for $5000- good ole sheldon would stroll by and stop at your table – he would talk to you for maybe three to five minutes – and thats what the 5k was for period –

  8. Now it looks like Silver owns Judge Jonathan Lippman who is the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals where our case was heard. No wonder our lawsuit ran into a brick wall!

  9. Pingback: Did Sheldon Silver Influence NY Home Rule Decision?Natural Gas Now

  10. Pingback: Did Sheldon Silver Influence NY Home Rule Decision? | ShaleNOW

  11. Its time us upstate landowner coalitions file a class action regarding this corruption with the drilling decision. It’s time to fight, fight , fight.

  12. Pingback: New York State Rep. Under Legal Fire Also Chased Anti-Fracking Cases | Latest Oil and Gas Jobs

  13. Pingback: Justice: Final Dimock Case Crumbles - Natural Gas NowNatural Gas Now

  14. Pingback: Justice: Final Dimock Case Crumbles | ShaleNOW

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