An accountant has been banned from working in the solicitors’ profession for amending accounts to conceal overstatements of liabilities and shortages in client accounts.
In a regulatory notice published yesterday, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) said Nicholas Groves, formerly of Eric Robinson Solicitors in Southampton, should not be employed again by a solicitors’ firm unless authorised by the SRA. He was rebuked and fined £2,000.
He also agreed to pay £300 in costs.
According to the notice Groves made a ‘series of incorrect postings’ to the client side of a suspense ledger which made it appear as though the firm owed £9m more to clients than was actually the case.
The notice further adds that between 2013 and 2015 the firm earned £37,618 in interest on monies held in its client bank account. In error, the bank paid this interest into the firm’s client account when it should have been paid into the office account.
During the same period, Groves transferred £96,850 from the client account to the office account, ‘purportedly to remedy the bank’s error’.
In April 2015, Groves made three payments to the firm’s client account totalling £121,276. Two were to service a loan the firm had taken out and another was to pay excess on an insurance claim.
The SRA’s notice said Groves amended the books of account, reconciliation statements and cashflow statements to ‘conceal all of the above’.
The SRA noted that his action was not for personal gain, and that Groves wanted to get the firm through periods when it would otherwise would have exceeded its overdraft limit.
In a statement to the Gazette the firm said: 'This was isolated conduct dating back some years, which upon discovery in late 2017, was taken very seriously by the partners.
'Remedial action was immediately taken and no individual client was prejudiced by the actions of Groves. His motives remain unclear to the partners. Groves has not been employed by this firm since June 2017 and since then a full voluntary review of our accounting procedures has been undertaken. No action has been taken against the firm or its compliance officers.’