A former consultant at a bought-out firm has been fined for transferring and storing masses of client data before it went into administration.
Peter Martin Aldis had been employed as a consultant at commercial firm Davenport Lyons before it entered administration in April 2014 and was taken over by Gordon Dadds LLP.
He moved to London firm Bircham Dyson Bell (BDB) the following month to work again as a consultant.
But a Solicitors Regulation Authority investigation uncovered a hard drive kept in Aldis’ desk drawer at his new workplace with 11.7 gigabytes of client data, including files on commercial contracts, personal contact details for third parties and 'know your client' documents with bank statements, utility bills, passports and company articles of assocation.
The data had been transferred from Davenport Lyons’ computer system on Aldis’ instruction prior to the firm going into administration. Aldis had also contacted his former secretary a month after the administration, requesting documents related to the firm.
A day later, Gordon Dadds LLP received confirmation from one of the clients whose documents had been emailed to Aldis that all legal matters were to be transferred to BDB. No client authorities were obtained for the transfer of other client data.
Client data was found to be downloaded onto the hard drive on Aldis' instruction, which was subsequently stored in a gym locker and then at a colleague's home address, before Aldis started working at BDB. The hard drive was neither encrypted nor password protected. Its contents were subsequently uploaded onto the BDB computer system upon Aldis' instruction. BDB was not informed.
Aldis admitted downloading confidential information without client consent, inappropriately obtaining confidential information from Gordon Dadds LLP and failing to take adequate steps to protect client confidentiality.
In mitigation, he said the consultative agreement with Davenport Lyons had no restrictive covenants, the client data was obtained in 'chaotic circumstances' on the day of administration, and he was not advised on the process for transfer of client files.
The retained data related to his own clients and included a number of public documents. He believed he was acting in clients' best interests.
Aldis was fined £2,000 by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and agreed to pay the £7,346 investigation costs.