Court Appoints Merck Lead Counsel Committee

April 19, 2005 ( - A New Jersey federal judge has tapped four law firms as co-lead counsel in the case filed by pension funds and other investors against drugmaker Merck & Co. over investment losses relating to Merck's former arthritis drug Vioxx.

US District Judge Stanley Chesler of the US District Court for the District of New Jersey named the firms that represent pension funds that owned Merck shares before Merck pulled the drug off the market over concerns linking it to heart attacks and strokes, the Associated Pres reported. Merck shares plunged $12 to $33 on September 30 – the day of its decision to pull the drug – wiping out $28 billion in stock value for the pension funds and other investors.

According to the AP report, seven of the nine law firms vying for the lead counsel post agreed to the committee of the firms named by Chesler that also included Hartford, Connecticut attorney Robert Izard. Izard told Chesler the four firms had extensive experience in such litigation.

Chesler used the occasion to lecture the 27 lawyers in his courtroom, according to the news report. He told the lawyers that he found the “skirmishing and sniping” in pretrial motions from lawyers arguing over who should run the case “distasteful.” “This court could not care less in terms of which firms get a bigger piece of the pie,” he said.

Besides Izard’s firm, Schatz & Nobel, the other law firms on the pension committee are: Keller Rohrback LLP of Seattle; Schiffrin & Barroway LLP of Radnor, Pennsylvania; and Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll PLLC of Philadelphia.