A solicitor who ran up a cash shortage in his firm’s client account after overpaying a client has agreed to leave the profession.
Christopher Parker, sole equity partner at Bristol firm David Lees & Co, had been aware of the overpayment on the property transaction when it was made, but failed to replace the monies as he was obligated to do.
According to an SRA regulatory settlement notice published yesterday, investigators went into the firm in January 2018 and found a cash shortage of more than £130,000 which had existed since April 2016, despite Parker having requested the return of the monies from the client.
The shortage in the firm’s client account was eventually rectified by Parker paying from his own resources in March 2018.
The forensic investigation also established that Parker had failed to carry out regular reconciliations of his client account between 2014 and 2018: he was required to do this every five weeks but only did so eight times during the period. The reconciliations carried out were not compliant with the rules as they contained unexplained shortages in his client account, and Parker’s books of accounts were also found to be inaccurate.
Parker, a solicitor for 46 years, was found to have delayed completing the administration of two probate estates, in one case delaying the payment of residual legacies to beneficiaries for eight years. This was despite the solicitor having contact details for the beneficiaries on his client files.
In another case, he had failed to make any enquiries to locate beneficiaries for more than four years.
The SRA said Parker also provided inaccurate information in his 2017 professional indemnity proposal form, wrongly saying he had not practised in a firm subject to an investigation in the previous 10 years.
Parker, who admitted each allegation made against him, said in mitigation that he struggled with the pressure of work as the firm’s compliance officer and being solely responsible for maintaining the accounts. This work pressure and other matters intruded and prevented him from dealing with the client account shortage swiftly and effectively.
He has now paid the legacies to all beneficiaries, transferred his business to another firm, retired, and has no intention of returning to practice.
He undertook to remove his name from the roll and agreed to pay a £2,000 fine and £7,000 costs.