A former marketing boss has been barred from the legal profession after diverting loan monies from his firm into personal bank accounts.
Francisco Rodriguez-Purcet used his role as head of marketing and business development at liquidated north-west firm Tandem Law to pay referral fees to a third party run and owned by his friend.
The monies were derived from the notorious Axiom Fund, a £100m investment fund which has been at the heart of a string of prosecutions of solicitors relating to its misuse.
In the case of Rodriguez-Purcet, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard Tandem had applied for funding in December 2011 and received total payments of almost £6m over the next 10 months. He used his position to pay fees to his friend’s company LAL, which supplied services to Tandem, and received kick-backs each time, in a scheme described by the Solicitors Regulation Authority as ‘manifestly corrupt’.
The SRA insisted that Rodriguez-Purcet could not have believed that Axiom would consent to his benefitting directly out of monies loaned to Tandem.
In his submissions, he explained that payments received by LAL were disbursements, which were permitted under the Axiom agreement. The fact that LAL's owner was his friend was irrelevant, and he claimed the firm’s management had expressed no concerns or reservations.
But the tribunal found beyond reasonable doubt, partly based on an email from Rodriguez-Purcet asking for an invoice, that Axiom monies were being taken by him as a ‘secret profit’ and siphoned through LAL. None of the monies loaned to Tandem have been repaid, and the firm was bought out of administration in 2013.
The judgment added: ‘The tribunal considered that the respondent’s dishonesty was of the highest order. He, together with others, had devised a scheme whereby he would personally gain from monies that he knew had been loaned to Tandem for specific purposes.’
The tribunal also found Rodriguez-Purcet had arranged, or acquiesced in, the passing of confidential client information to companies in which he was a director, with a view to cold calling those clients offering re-mortgage services.
Rodriguez-Purcet, as a non-solicitor, was made subject to a section 43 order which prevents him working for any law firm without SRA permission. He must also pay £35,000 in costs.