A solicitor of more than 40 years has agreed to leave the roll after his firm was found guilty of a string of accounting rule breaches.
Malcolm Grumbridge, a sole practitioner at west London firm M C Grumbridge, will apply to remove his name from the roll this month and has undertaken not to apply for readmission.
A regulatory settlement agreement notice published by the SRA stated that inspections of the firm’s books had identified ‘areas of concern’ in relation to compliance with money laundering regulations.
Books had not been accurately maintained, inter-client loans were made without proper written authority of the clients, cash withdrawals were made from the client bank account in favour of Grumbridge, and payments were made into the client bank account with no evidence of an underlying legal transaction.
In addition, a cash gift from a client was transferred to Grumbridge’s own personal account, without the client being advised to take any independent legal advice.
The SRA said there was no practice-wide risk assessment in place and there were no policies, controls and procedures to manage the risks of money laundering. From June 2017, adequate due diligence was not carried out on all clients or parties to transactions, and the firm failed to keep records of any checks being made. Several files had no documentary evidence that Grumbridge had considered any potential conflict between his clients’ and his own interests; this included one matter where he represented a company of which he was co-director.
Grumbridge, a solicitor since 1978, admitted failing to act with integrity, failing to provide a proper standard of service, and failing to act in the best interests of each client. The SRA said the conduct was serious enough to merit a fine of between £25,000 and £50,000, but this was reduced to £2,000 on the basis of the admissions made at an early stage, Grumbridge’s ill health and his co-operation with the investigation. Limiting the fine to this level would also mean the SRA could deal with the matter itself rather than refer it to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and cause unnecessary delay. The solicitor must also pay £1,350 costs.