A solicitor at former Bolton law firm Coops Law – which sprung from the ashes of defunct practice Asons Solcitors – has been suspended and ordered to pay nearly £18,000 in costs.
According to an agreed outcome between the SRA and Munir Majid, the solicitor breached confidentiality by allowing around 6,000 client files to be transferred from Asons to Coops, along with funds belonging to Asons clients.
Accepting the agreed outcome, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) said Majid, admitted in 2006, should be suspended for six months and pay £17,987 costs.
The outcome reveals details of the winding up of Asons and arrival of Coops. According to the outcome, in 22 March 2017 Coops engaged 'AL Solicitors’ to advise on buying Asons’ assets and work in progress. The next day, even though Asons had not obtained clients’ authority to transfer their files to Coops, the sale and purchase agreement was signed. The agreement was priced at £230,000.
According to the agreed outcome, Majid admitted breaching confidentiality by allowing the transfer of around 6,000 client files from Asons to Coops, enabling the firm’s staff to access confidential details from client databases without prior knowledge or consent from those clients, and placing undue pressure on one or more clients, in that clients were asked to provide authority ‘urgently’ in circumstances where there was ‘no or no material urgency’.
The SDT’s judgment notes that Coops was set up by a person it refers to as ‘IA’ as a ‘means to frustrate’ any potential SRA action against Asons and/or to prevent Asons’ funds from going to its creditors.
Although ‘IA’ denied this, the SDT noted that the firms operated from the same premises, employed the same fee-earners, worked on the same files and employed the same accounts department.
In May last year, former Asons chief executive Kamran Akram was suspended from practice for 18 months after he was found to have caused or permitted the firm to act in circumstances giving rise to a conflict of interest between the firm and its clients. Costs were agreed in the sum of £115,000. The SDT cleared Akram, admitted in 2005, of dishonesty charges.
Majid's agreed outcome refers to ‘IA’ as the ‘non-lawyer brother’ of Asons owner ‘KA’.