A solicitor has agreed to leave the profession after admitting to withdrawing up to £75,000 from client accounts to balance shortfalls, the Solicitors Regulation Authority reported today.
David Harry Salt, a partner at the Portsmouth office of south England firm Blake Lapthorn until leaving in June 2011, was found to have made improper withdrawals on five occasions of amounts ranging from £26,660 to £75,000.
The issue was identified by the firm’s risk and compliance department when it noticed a shortfall on the firm’s client account.
Further investigation revealed more than £50,000 had been withdrawn from a client’s ledger at Salt’s request. The shortfall had initially been £39,000 but increased due to late payment of stamp duty land tax on an unrelated client matter from Salt’s time at a former firm.
The SRA’s forensic investigation team uncovered five matters concerning payments made between July 2005 and December 2006.
On each occasion Salt did not obtain his client’s written or other consent to use the money and they were unaware of the withdrawals.
Salt failed to disclose the transfers to anyone at the firm. Blake Lapthorn, which merged with Morgan Cole to form Blake Morgan in 2014, replaced the client account shortfall immediately and has since recovered the funds from Salt.
The 46-year-old admitted participating in what the SRA called ‘teeming and lading’, by using one client’s money for the benefit of another client.
Salt fully admitted misconduct, the SRA said, and does not intend to practise again. In mitigation he said he suffered from 'significant ill health' at the time of the events.
Salt undertook to apply within 28 days for his name to be removed from the roll and he will not seek to work again in the legal profession. He also agreed to pay £1,350 SRA costs.