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July 29, 2009

‘Pay to Play’: The Plaintiffs’ Lawyer Scandal that Shouldn’t be Ignored

This week, the trial lawyer “pay to play” scandal continues to unfold, ratcheting up the public attention and the impetus for Congress and the S.E.C. to act.

Yesterday’s New York Times editorial, lauding the S.E.C.’s new rules to end pay to play for public pension funds and 529 college savings plans invested by states, also concluded that, “There is also another very large loophole that needs to be closed: lawyers make huge fees negotiating contracts for the state and the S.E.C. has no control over lawyers unless they are fronting for investors.” Read the full editorial here.

Today, the Wall Street Journal editorializes for the sixth time on the scandal that has exposed the broad extent of the problem of trial lawyers making campaign contributions to elected officials and then being hired by those same officials to bring lucrative contingency fee lawsuits on behalf of the state. In this case, it’s the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the official in question is the governor, Ed Rendell. The Journal points out that it is unusual for a state supreme court to take up a case from the appellate level before it has been concluded. The fact that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is doing so here underscores the seriousness of the issue.

These editorials should bolster Senator Bennett of Utah’s efforts to shed light on this unseemly practice. He sent a letter to the S.E.C. this month urging that its rules include trial lawyer “pay to play.” Other members of Congress concerned about this practice should do the same.

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