A solicitor who lost his job after wrongly claiming £202 in taxi fares has told a tribunal that he was working too hard to notice that he had submitted more than one expenses claim for the same journey. Abel Manukyan, a former assistant solicitor with London firm Fladgate LLP, was fined £2,500 despite having no intention of profiting from the action.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that Manukyan, a solicitor for six years, was entitled to claim for Uber journeys which would be charged against an open client matter file. But, on five separate dates, he made a further claim to Fladgate for the cost of journeys to his home, duplicating claims he had previously made. In each case the claim was charged against a different client matter.
The duplicate claims came to a total of £202, and the clients have been repaid. Manukyan was dismissed in June 2017 after almost three years with the firm.
Manukyan made an agreed settlement with the Solicitors Regulation Authority and told the tribunal in his own non-agreed mitigation that he had been ‘extremely overworked’ and suffering from stress and depression. Due to this he prioritised his client work and fell behind in his administration which ‘fell into disarray’.
The SRA accepted that Manukyan was in breach of the ‘absolute duty’ of trust and good faith which he owed to the firm and his individual clients. However, he did not act deliberately and had no intention of profiting from his actions. Accepting that this was a single episode in an otherwise unblemished career, the tribunal agreed with the proposed £2,500 fine and no costs.
Fladgate said in a statement: ‘As soon as Fladgate became aware of allegations about the individual concerned we undertook a thorough investigation of the facts and circumstances and concluded we had no alternative but to dismiss him and refer the matter to the SRA. We are satisfied that no damage was done to any of our clients' interests.’