A solicitor who raided the client account then told a string of lies to cover his tracks has been banned from the profession.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal opted to strike off Andrew John Davies after hearing how the Manchester lawyer had failed to replace a £529,000 shortage in the client account.
He then misled investigators into believing he had replaced the money and lied to clients through falsified bank statements.
The tribunal said Davies, the only equity partner at Robert Meaton & Co, had showed a ‘complete disregard to integrity, probity and trustworthiness’.
In addition to accounting breaches, the tribunal also found Davies faked five bank statements to attempt to show he had paid off a couple’s liabilities.
He provided false bank statements to clients purporting to show their £382,000 mortgage had been redeemed, and forged building regulation certificates to solicitors acting for Royal Bank of Scotland in a property transaction.
The tribunal also heard he had misled chambers and his own staff by creating emails claiming to show he had paid for a barrister’s services, and had forged expert opinion and fabricated an email from a clerk.
The tribunal heard investigators started to look into Davies’ conduct in September 2013, 11 months before the firm was intervened into.
In July 2014, RBS froze the office and client accounts due to two suspicious transfers: it was later found there had been two improper transfers to a personal account of £270,000 and £205,000.
The client account shortage was eventually set at £529,000, and a number of claims have since been made against the compensation fund.
The tribunal’s judgment said Davies’ misconduct would have continued and escalated if he had not been stopped when he was.
It added that he had harmed the reputation of the wider solicitors’ profession and caused clients to lose substantial sums of money.
‘It appears that the motivation for his conduct was for personal, financial gain,’ said the tribunal. ‘[He] made considerable efforts to disguise what he was doing and cover his tracks.
‘His actions were planned and appeared to be escalating.’
Davies, born in 1984 and admitted in 2008, was struck off the roll of solicitors and ordered to pay almost £66,000 in prosecution costs.