A link between the fundraising efforts of a prominent cancer researcher and the law practice of Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the New York State Assembly, is one key to U.S. prosecutors' charges against Silver, according to The New York Times.
The Times reported that charges against Silver say Robert Taub, who until Friday headed a Columbia University center studying mesothelioma, referred patients to a law firm that employed Silver, gaining Silver millions of dollars in legal fees.
In return, prosecutors charge, Silver secretly diverted state funds to the doctor's research center, the Times reported.
Taub lost his position on Friday, while the charges against Silver threaten to ruin the career of one of New York's most powerful politicians, the Times reported.
Taub has received a nonprosecution agreement in return for his cooperation in the case against Silver, the Times reported. Silver's law firm has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
About 3,000 people a year are diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is caused by asbestos. That makes the disease relatively rare and a low priority for pharmaceutical producers, and funding for research is difficult to obtain, the Times reported.
But for personal-injury lawyers, these cases can generate fees averaging $1.5 million to $2 million, the paper said.
Medical-ethics specialists say that lawyers and physicians have sometimes created unseemly alliances, with lawyers funding research into the disease while the doctors refer patients to them, the Times reported.
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