A high-flying City solicitor has been suspended for a year after being arrested and cautioned for the possession of cocaine and not telling the regulator.
Matthew Podger, admitted in 2013, was an associate at US firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton when he was arrested outside his London home in 2018. Podger accepted a caution for possession of a Class A drug for his own use after being found with three wraps of cocaine.
According to a judgment published by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, Podger – formerly a trainee at magic circle firm Slaughter and May - did not report his caution to his employer or the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP found out about the incident when it received an anonymous letter 10 months later. The former associate was suspended and resigned shortly afterwards.
A statement of agreed facts and proposed outcome said Podger had previously accepted a caution in 2014 for possession of cocaine, in what he described as a ‘one off and uncharacteristic lapse of judgment'. In that instance, he had promptly self-reported.
On the second caution, the former associate accepted he had ‘failed to show moral soundness, rectitude and a steady adherence to an ethical code’ and had undermined public trust.
In mitigation, Podger said he had been undergoing ‘significant stress’ and marital problems, and had been working very long hours. ‘He felt in order to try to maintain his livelihood and save his marriage, he had no choice but to keep secret what had happened.’
The tribunal ordered that Podger be suspended from practice for one year to commence on 24 June 2020 and it ordered him to pay costs of £1,809.
Upon the expiry of the term of suspension, Podger may not act as a compliance officer for legal practice, a compliance officer for finance and administration, or a money laundering reporting officer.