An experienced solicitor who used his status to give credence to illegal investment schemes has been thrown out of the legal profession.
Stephen Pickard was jailed for a total of eight years in November 2016 after helping to put together a scheme to convince investors to pay money into a Ponzi-style private placement programme. He was found guilty of two offences of fraud by false representation and concealing criminal property.
The investment opportunity, described in court as ‘all lies’, never existed and Pickard knew this was the case, using his role to let people believe it was genuine.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard the solicitor of 32 years, ‘provided respectability’ through the scheme and ‘dragged through the mire’ the name of his former employer, Yorkshire firm Lupton Fawcett, which played no part in the fraud.
In sentencing at Leeds Crown Court, His Honour Judge Kearl QC said Pickard was essential to the scheme in order to claim to provide full and proper due diligence and to give a history to the trading – the solicitor was the ‘lieutenant’ of the main defendant, by whom he was paid.
The tribunal heard Pickard had been contacted in prison and he did not wish to contest disciplinary proceedings against him.
He was found to have acted through ‘greed and desire for personal financial gain’, having been a willing participant in fraudulent activities in which members of the public lost significant amounts of money.
His case had caused ‘colossal harm’ to the legal profession in general, the conviction leading to headlines in the media such as ‘another lawyer helps fraudsters by giving credibility to their scam’.
Pickard was struck off the roll of solicitors and ordered to pay £2,439 costs.
Following his conviction, Lupton Fawcett emphasised that the firm was not involved in any way in Pickard’s offences, which were carried out without its knowledge. Once the firm became aware of his conduct, it reported the matter to the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Pickard departed shortly thereafter.