International firm Clyde & Co has been criticised for ‘unacceptable’ errors and warned that it ‘should be setting an example’ after the firm and three of its partners were fined a total of £80,000.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has this week published its full decision regarding the record £50,000 fine imposed on the firm after it breached money laundering and accountancy rules. The decision was published by the Solicitors Regulation Authority last month. It its judgment the SDT said that the ‘previously reputable’ firm’s errors were ‘particularly glaring’.
In addition to the £50,000 fine, three London-based partners, Christopher Duffy, Simon Gamblin and Nick Purnell, were each fined £10,000.
The respondents admitted allowing the firm’s client account to be used as a banking facility when there was no underlying legal transaction. They also admitted that they failed to comply with obligations under the Money Laundering Regulations 2007. The conduct in question dated back to 2013.
In its decision, the SDT said the three men were all partners and experienced solicitors who ‘should have been aware of the relevant regulatory requirements.’
‘Each of the respondents had let down the profession and their actions would tend to diminish rather than maintain the trust the public would place in them,’ the ruling added.
However, the SDT said that although the matters were serious they were ‘not at the highest level’.
None of the men or the firm was found to have lacked integrity or trustworthiness.
When the decision was published, 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. 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.’
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 and around 1,400 lawyers, including 375 partners. According to its latest accounts, its highest paid partner drew £1.3m in 2016.