N.Y. politician facing corruption charges over employment at asbestos, real estate law firms

By John O'Brien | Jan 22, 2015

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) – A prominent New York politician received millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks masked as legitimate income, federal prosecutors are alleging.

According to the Wall Street Journal, state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested Thursday on public corruption charges.

Annually cited as a roadblock to legal reform in New York, Silver has listed income from the New York City asbestos firm Weitz and Luxenberg and the real estate law firm Goldberg & Iryami.

Through the years, Silver has refused to disclose the work he provides for the firms. The complaint says he has earned more than $6 million in income from the two firms since 2002.

“Sheldon Silver… had no involvement in the work of the Real Estate Law Firm or Weitz & Luxenberg’s asbestos practice, and he has never performed any legal work whatsoever for either…” says the complaint, which was posted on the Wall Street Journal’s website.

“In short, as set forth below, there is probable cause to believe that Silver obtained approximately $4 million in payments characterized as attorney referral fees solely through the corrupt use of his official position.”

Silver has been listed in the annual Judicial Hellholes report, published by the American Tort Reform Association, for his efforts to prevent tort reform in the state.

Weitz & Luxenberg was also included in the most recent report for its successful push to have punitive damages reintroduced to the New York City Asbestos Litigation docket.

In the report, which ranked NYCAL No. 1 and was released in December, ATRA said Silver will prevent tort reform efforts in the state Legislature because he is on the payroll of the Weitz firm. It also noted that in 2008, Silver appointed Arthur Luxenberg to a committee that reviews candidates for the state Supreme Court and its appellate division and makes recommendations to the governor.

The complaint says Weitz & Luxenberg credited Silver with referring more than 100 asbestos clients to the firm and paid him more than $3.2 million in fees, in addition to his $120,000 salary.

The complaint alleges that a doctor referred mesothelioma patients to Silver, and that the doctor's hospital received state grants for research.

From Legal Newsline: Reach editor John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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New York City Asbestos Litigation Weitz and Luxenberg

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