An Ohio attorney in federal prison for his role in an insider trading and kickback scheme was suspended Friday from practicing in Wisconsin for two years.
Steven Berman, 51, is serving an 18-month sentence at a federal prison in Morgantown, W.V., for working to sell stock at a price higher than the market dictated. Berman, along with Grafton attorney Richard Kranitz, both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud in a Massachusetts federal court. They were sentenced in July.
The Office of Lawyer Regulation, in a complaint it filed in September, asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to suspend Berman from practicing law for two years. Berman – who has been licensed to practice in Wisconsin since 1987 – did not object, the justices wrote in an opinion, and the court imposed the sanctions, effective Friday.
“We note that we have previously imposed similar suspensions in cases where attorneys have been convicted in federal court of ‘white collar’ crimes,” the opinion reads.
According to court filings, Kranitz and Berman were involved in a company called China Wi-Max Communications Inc. and worked to inflate the stock’s price. Berman was the company’s CEO.
The OLR compliant details how the pair worked with a man to sell the stock and give kickbacks to a representative of a “major investment fund” who helped facilitate the sale. Unbeknownst to Kranitz and Berman, that representative was an undercover FBI agent.
If Berman wants to practice law again in Wisconsin, he will have to petition for reinstatement. He is scheduled for release in December.
The OLR also asked the court in September to suspend Kranitz, who was on the company’s board, for two years. The court has yet to rule in Kranitz’s case.
Kranitz, 69, is also scheduled for release at the end of the year.Follow @eheisigWLJ