A renowned solicitor with 50 years’ experience in the legal profession has been struck off after being found guilty of one count of dishonesty.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal today ruled that Mel Goldberg, who made his name as a sports lawyer and agent, be banned after finding he acted for clients in a transaction that bore the hallmarks of money laundering and/or fraud.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority, prosecuting, had sought to link six separate transactions overseen by Goldberg with dishonesty, but the tribunal found just one was linked to dishonesty.
This transaction, referred to as Swiss Garantie, happened five months after an interview in 2013 with indemnity insurers in which concerns were raised about the other five.
Goldberg had already admitted failing to keep up-to-date proper accounts and failing to act in the best interests of client.
The tribunal further found Goldberg, who turns 80 next year, used the client account of his firm inappropriately by using it as a banking facility, failing to comply with money-laundering regulations and acting in transactions where there was a conflict of interest. The tribunal found dishonesty was not involved in any of these allegations.
The three-day hearing started on Tuesday with Chloe Carpenter, of Fountain Court Chambers representing the SRA, explaining that the six transactions in the spotlight were ‘complex and confusing’, with unclear and ill-defined terms and conditions.
Goldberg was ‘routinely’ instructed to act for a borrower and third party in financial transactions, charging a £500 an hour fee. The third party acted as a facilitator for transactions described by Carpenter as ‘dubious’.
Susanna Heley, of London firm RadcliffesLebrasseur, representing Goldberg, had earlier told the tribunal that it could not find dishonesty if it was unable to understand the nature of the transactions, given their complexity.
She said Goldberg had appreciated he should have been more suspicious about the transactions he was involved with, and with hindsight he could see they should have been flagged up.
‘Mr Goldberg is turning 80 this year and by any measure he would be classified as a vulnerable client,’ she said. ‘His position is always ‘I didn’t think there was anything wrong with [the transactions]’. That might make him an idiot or incompetent but it doesn’t make him dishonest.’
Goldberg, a former chairman of the British Association for Sport and Law and representative to high-profile footballers and boxers, told the tribunal he was bankrupt and could not afford to pay costs.
The SDT imposed an order to pay £40,000 prosecution costs, to be enforced only with the leave of the tribunal.