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Law firm admits inaccuracies in applying for state pension fund work, withdraws

A prominent law firm seeking lucrative pension work from Florida pulled out of the running Thursday after the firm's senior partner acknowledged making inaccurate statements to a selection committee.

The selection of the firm, New York City's Bernstein Liebhard, had been put on hold by the State Board of Administration after Attorney General Bill McCollum got an anonymous letter in December alleging misconduct by the firm's partners.

Bernstein Liebhard had been ranked No. 1 by a State Board of Administration evaluation panel, but a two-page letter allegedly written by a former employee said the firm's lawyers had complex financial ties to charities and investors that raised serious ethical questions.

The firm's Stanley Bernstein came to Tallahassee recently to meet with the selection committee and dispute the charges.

But in a two-page letter sent to the board on Thursday, Bern­stein said he had made incomplete and incorrect statements to the committee about tax problems that he and his partner had.

In a separate two-paragraph letter, Bernstein cited "recent burdens imposed upon the SBA by the firm's application" as the reason for withdrawing.

The board already had picked five law firms to serve as securities litigation counsel — a plum job that can land them tens of millions of dollars in fees per case. The winners are Pomerantz Haudek Grossman & Gross of New York City, Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann of New York City, Berman De­Valerio of Boston, Barrack, Rodos & Bacine of Philadelphia and Kaplan Fox of New York City.

The St. Petersburg Times chronicled the political nature of the selection process — including questions about pay-to-play — in December.

Last week, the State Board of Administration's three-member board of trustees — McCollum, Gov. Charlie Crist and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink — approved a $50 million-per-case cap on legal fees paid to outside lawyers.

Law firm admits inaccuracies in applying for state pension fund work, withdraws 02/04/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 4, 2010 9:52pm]
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