Sunday, August 22, 2010

'He's Making a Profit Off the Sick and the Dead in the World's Biggest Tragedy'

New York Stte Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is one of the sleazier Democrats around, but has always flown under the national radar since he's decided to just reward himself in New York and not go national like other New York sleazebags (we're looking at you, Charlie Rangel). But when it comes to lining his own pockets, this guy makes Rangel and others look like pikers.

How's this for a conflict of interest?
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has spun the 9/11 lawsuits into gold.

Ground Zero workers are on the hook to pay steep interest on money their lawyers borrowed from a group of investors that include Silver and his law partners, The Post has learned.

Silver's partners at the Weitz & Luxenberg law firm are top board members of a business that quietly loaned money at 18 percent a year to the law firm representing some 9,800 Ground Zero workers with toxic-illness suits against the city.

Silver personally invested an undisclosed sum -- but at least $50,000 -- in Counsel Financial Services, a Buffalo-based attorney-funding company that gives four-year loans and lines of credit up to $10 million to law firms with cases expected to hit the jackpot.

Sources told The Post that Counsel Financial loaned money to Paul Napoli and Marc Bern, lead attorneys suing the city on behalf of cops, firefighters, hardhats and other workers and volunteers who blame illnesses on the toxic World Trade Center rubble.

Silver's office has previously described him as a "passive investor" in Counsel Financial.

"He doesn't know where the money goes," Silver spokeswoman Sisa Moyo said when asked to comment on Counsel Financial's connection to the law firm battling New York City in the 9/11 cases.

Silver's Assembly district covers much of lower Manhattan, including Ground Zero, and the speaker is arguably the most powerful Democrat in the state.

A source familiar with the 9/11 litigation said Worby Groner Edelman & Napoli Bern, the law partnership representing the 9/11 workers, "had to lay out $20 million to $30 million" to fight the cases for six years against City Hall, which at first refused to pay a dime to ailing workers.

The firm "borrowed most of it," the source said, adding that the lawyers would have to repay the loans themselves if they lost the cases. "They took the risk."

Napoli said his firm took out various loans "at the best rates we could find," but would not answer further questions.

But now, lawyers are trying to pass on the interest costs to their 9/11 clients. Manhattan federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein has called a hearing next week to investigate whether the lawyers have overcharged their clients.

Out of the proposed $675 million settlement, the lawyers are expected to collect nearly $200 million in fees and expenses -- including "repayment of interest expenses."

Workers said they had no knowledge of the loans and no idea they would be socked with the interest charges. Some were stunned when they opened their settlement-proposal letters last month to learn their awards would be slashed by hundreds to thousands each.

One first responder, told of Silver's connection to the high-interest loans, was disgusted.

"He's making a profit off the sick and the dead in the world's biggest tragedy," he said. "These guys are just capitalizing off the guys who really need help."
Needless to say, this is just beyond the pale. I'm sure al of Silver's Democrat brethren will be quick to denounce this.
"It's highly questionable for the speaker to be investing in a company whose interest charges to the lawyers result in reduced federal taxpayer support for ill 9/11 workers," said Dick Dadey, director of Citizens Union.

He added, "For the lawyers to add interest to their generous take is particularly heinous when this federal money is intended for those who fell ill helping the country on 9/11."
SIlver, naturally, supports the Ground Zero mosque. Who knows, maybe he's an investor in that as well.

No comments: