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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.
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):
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).
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.
“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.
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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