International firm Clyde & Co has been fined £50,000 and three of its partners fined £10,000 following a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal ruling that they breached money laundering and accountancy rules.
The decision, published yesterday by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, said the three partners allowed a client account to be used as a banking facility in breach of accounting rules and the code of conduct. It added that the partners had failed to act in accordance with their obligations under the Money Laundering Regulations 2007.
The fines were handed to Christopher Duffy, Simon Gamblin and Nick Purnell, all partners in the firm’s London office.
According to the SRA statement, Duffy and Purnell also admitted that they acted as escrow agent in transactions on behalf of a client which had the hallmarks of ‘dubious financial arrangements or investment schemes’. By doing this, the pair failed to heed the guidance in the Law Society’s Fraudulent Financial Arrangements warning, the SRA said.
In a statement, Clyde & Co said it held itself to the ‘highest professional and ethical standards’ and takes responsibility for ensuring it meets them.
‘We acknowledge that in three matters that occurred in 2013 and prior, we did not meet those high standards and the firm and three of its partners did act in breach of the SRA accounts rules and money laundering regulations, which also led to breaches of certain SRA principles and code.’
The firm added: ‘We believe it to be clear and the SRA does not dispute, that any mistakes made were honest and inadvertent. It is not alleged that the firm or the three partners lacked integrity, probity or trustworthiness, or laundered or misappropriated money. We have worked constructively with our regulator, the SRA and we are confident that the circumstances which led to these breaches could not happen again. We have since reviewed and strengthened a number of aspects of our approach to risk management.’
The SDT’s judgment, handed down on 21 March, has yet to be published.
Clyde & Co is one of the world's leading international firms. In 2016, it had a turnover of £447 million, ranking it 12th in the UK. It has more than 40 offices across the UK and worldwide. Around 1,400 lawyers, including 375 partners, work at the firm. According to its latest accounts, its highest paid partner drew £1.3m in 2016.