A property chief at the centre of legal claims adding up to £15m against his former firm has been struck off the roll. Jonathan Thomas Gorman, former head of commercial property with Liverpool firm EAD Solicitors, was struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal after several cases were highlighted showing a lack of care for his clients. In his absence, the tribunal found allegations proved that he failed to properly advise clients, failed to perform an undertaking and allowed the firm’s client account to be used as a banking facility.
The tribunal said it was clear there was a ‘close and complicit’ relationship with a third party referred to as RW, a former solicitor and Gorman’s colleague at a previous firm, and now a property developer. The tribunal inferred that the benefit derived by Gorman from his misconduct was continued business with RW and the revenue this generated.
Gorman worked with EAD, which went into administration in September 2018, for around 18 months before he was dismissed for gross misconduct in June 2017. He had been a solicitor for six years.
The tribunal heard that Gorman came to the attention of the Solicitors Regulation Authority when the firm’s compliance officer reported a potential negligence claim and concerns about transactions. The matters all involved RW.
SRA investigators found several matters where Gorman failed to register his clients’ interests with the Land Registry or take steps to ensure they paid the right amount of stamp duty land tax.
Gorman was struck off and ordered to pay £40,000 in costs. The tribunal said this had not been a fleeting or momentary lapse of judgment but had been a course of conduct, involving dishonesty, repeated over many months.
In June this year, the High Court heard proceedings worth £15m against EAD over four loans relating to the development of land. The lender sued for compensation on the basis that the firm paid away loan monies without obtaining proper security. Gorman was the solicitor handling all four transactions.
His Honour Judge Halliwell, sitting in the Business and Property Courts in Manchester, gave the claimant summary judgment in relation to two loans for £250,000. The claim against EAD was based on the proposition that Gorman paid away loan monies contrary to his instructions without ensuring that they were secured by a legal charge over properties.