Trial Lawyers Contribute, Shareholder Suits Follow

by Mark Maremont, Tom McGinty and Nathan Koppel, for The Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2010.

Two weeks ago, the fund joined with two others in a shareholder suit against drugstore chain CVS Caremark Corp., whose stock had fallen. It was the 12th time since 2006 the pension fund has gone to court after a stock it owned declined.

For 10 of the suits, including the latest, the pension fund hired a New York plaintiffs’ law firm called Labaton Sucharow LLP. That firm, in turn, has taken a keen interest in the political fortunes of Norfolk County Treasurer Joseph A. Connolly, who heads the pension fund’s board. Attorneys at the New York law firm and their relatives have made 68 separate donations, of the maximum $500 apiece, to Mr. Connolly’s campaign war chest since late 2005, public records show.

Asked why its lawyers gave to a county treasurer in a state not its own, Labaton Sucharow said its “members and their families make perfectly legal political contributions to elected officials and candidates who support shareholder rights.” Mr. Connolly didn’t respond to requests for comment.

It is legal for lawyers, like anyone else, to give campaign money to politicians. But questions arise when the politicians are local officials with influence over the selection of legal counsel for shareholder lawsuits filed by public pension funds, a role that can be lucrative…(continue reading)

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