The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has approved a fine of £250,000 on international firm White & Case for failures over conflict of interest and client confidentiality. The penalty is the biggest ever issued against a single firm at the tribunal and followed an investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
An SRA notice published this afternoon states that the fine order was made after the tribunal considered an application to approve an agreed outcome. The firm admitted allowing work to be carried out for clients without taking steps to prevent a conflict of interest, or the risk of one. It also admitted allowing instructions to be accepted without ensuring information provided by clients was kept confidential. The firm accepted it had acted recklessly in respect of both matters.
The details of the misconduct are not disclosed in the notice, and will be explained fully only when the SDT publishes its judgment in around seven weeks.
In addition to the firm’s fine, the tribunal also approved a fine of £50,000 on partner David Goldberg, after he admitted a number of allegations.
These included acting, and continuing to act, for clients where a conflict may arise, and failing to protect confidentiality of client information.
Goldberg also admitted to providing confidential information concerning the work being undertaken on behalf of a client in one matter to a partner involved in another matter. He was found to have failed, as the partner with overall responsibility for the matter involved, to have made specific enquiries relating to client instructions, and in doing so acted recklessly.
The SRA notice stressed that neither the firm or Goldberg acted dishonestly and that allegations of a lack of integrity were not pursued against either.
A spokesman for the firm said: ‘While it would not be appropriate to comment until the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has published its judgment, we have been cooperating fully with the SRA and accept the orders which will be made by the SDT. We are committed to upholding the legal industry’s highest standards at all times, in all of the jurisdictions where we operate.'
The previous record fine against a firm at the SDT was £50,000, although a sole practitioner has previously been fined £305,000.