Lawyer Gets Prison Term for Trying to Sell Lawsuits

Former U.S. Department of Justice lawyer Jeffrey Wertkin is sentenced to 30 months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing sealed whistleblower lawsuits and attempting to sell them to defendants for cash. DOJ calls the crimes a “staggering abuse of his public position.”

A federal judge imposed a 30-month prison term on Jeffrey Wertkin, the former Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld partner who pleaded guilty to stealing sealed whistleblower lawsuits and attempting to sell them to defendants for cash, The Recorder reports. “There’s an abuse of public trust here and it just has to be recognized,” said Judge Maxine Chesney in San Francisco. Wertkin said he was “very ashamed” of his actions and apologized to his former colleagues at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Wertkin joined Akin in 2016 after six years as a trial lawyer in the Justice Department’s Civil Division. Federal agents arrested him in January 2017 in a California hotel lobby. Charging papers indicated he was wearing a wig and sunglasses at the time, posing as someone named “Dan.” Wertkin traveled to the hotel to meet an official at a company he’d reached out to, offering sealed documents from a whistleblower lawsuit in exchange for $310,000. Instead, he was met by undercover agents who arrested him. Wertkin’s defense attorneys asked for a one-year and one-day sentence, claiming their client accepted responsibility for his actions, which they said “stand in stark contrast to the careful, diligent and unblemished life he led up until the point of his crimes.” Federal prosecutors sought a 34-month sentence, calling Wertkin’s crimes a ”staggering abuse of his public position.”