Decisions filed recently with the Law Society (which may be subject to appeal)
Hearing 5-6 October 2021
Reasons 3 November 2021
The SDT ordered that the respondent should pay a fine of £30,000, and that he should be subject to the following conditions: that he might not (i) be a compliance officer for legal practice, compliance officer for finance and administration, money laundering compliance officer or money laundering reporting officer; (ii) act as a manager or owner for any authorised body other than Davis-Law Associates (SRA number 522432); provide legal services as a freelance solicitor offering reserved or unreserved services under regulations 10.2(a) or (b) of the SRA Authorisation of Individuals Regulations; with liberty to apply.
While in sole practice as a solicitor at Davis-Law Associates, where at material times he was compliance officer for legal practice, compliance officer for finance and administration, money laundering reporting officer and money laundering compliance officer, he had caused or allowed monies to be paid into or out of the firm’s client accounts, other than in respect of an underlying legal transaction or a service forming part of the normal regulated activities of solicitors, thereby improperly providing banking facilities through client account, in breach of rule 14.5 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, rule 8.5(e) of the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011, and principles 2, 6, 7 and 8 of the SRA Principles 2011. He had acted recklessly.
He had acted for client A and/or for clients B, in relation to the tracing and recovery of monies invested at the direction of Mr Rodney Whiston-Dew, in circumstances where there was one or more own-interest conflicts (or a significant risk of such conflict); and one or more client conflicts (or a significant risk of such conflict), thereby breaching (or failing to achieve) outcomes 3.4 and 3.5 under the SRA Code of Conduct, principles 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8, and rule 8.5(c) of the authorisation rules. He had acted recklessly.
He had failed adequately or at all to establish the sources of funds received into the client account in relation to a number of entities; had failed adequately or at all to establish the source of around £10,000 which he had received in cash from client C; received and transferred funds from a number of third parties without undertaking any or adequate steps to verify the identity of the payers or properly scrutinise such transactions; and had failed adequately or at all to heed a number of ‘red flag’ indicators, including while acting for all or any of the entities, thereby breaching (or failing to achieve) regulations 7 and 8 of the Money Laundering Regulations 2007, regulations 27 and 28 of the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017, principles 2, 6, 7 and 8, outcomes 7.2, 7.3, 7.5 under the code, and rule 8.5(c) of the authorisation rules. He had acted recklessly.
On one or more occasions, he had caused or allowed a letter to be sent in the firm’s name to a third party, purporting to confirm certain facts and matters or to give various assurances without having verified those facts, matters or assurances adequately or at all, and where the truth or otherwise of the facts and matters stated or assurances provided was not known to him personally, thereby breaching principles 2 and 6. He had acted recklessly.
The regulatory breaches found proved were serious and abundant but were predicated on recklessness as opposed to dishonesty.
The respondent had been deceived by Mr Whiston-Dew; he had made sterling efforts to make good the harm caused to clients; he had taken extensive remedial action within the parameters of the firm to make good the harm caused to the profession and he had demonstrated significant and genuine insight into his failings.
The proportionate and appropriate sanction was a level 5 financial penalty in conjunction with a restriction order.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £35,000.
Hearing 21-22 September 2021
Reasons 5 November 2021
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be suspended from practice for nine months from 22 September 2021. Upon the expiry of that fixed term of suspension, the respondent should be subject indefinitely to the following conditions: that he might not (i) practise as a sole practitioner or sole manager or sole owner of an authorised or recognised body, or as a freelance solicitor, or as a solicitor in an unregulated organisation; (ii) be a partner or member of a limited liability partnership, legal disciplinary practice or alternative business structure or other authorised or recognised body; (iii) be a head of legal practice/compliance officer for legal practice or a head of finance and administration/compliance officer for finance and administration; (iv) hold client money; or (v) be a signatory on any client account; with liberty to apply.
While in practice as a solicitor at Giles Wilson LLP, the respondent had made records as to the time spent by him working on a client matter which were inaccurate, misleading and in excess of the time actually spent on the client matter against which they were recorded, and in doing so had breached principles 2, 4 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011.
While employed by Mullis & Peake LLP, the respondent had misappropriated client monies in the sum of £1,115 by paying into his personal bank account a cheque in that sum issued by HM Revenue & Customs in relation to the client B matter, in respect of which he had been acting in the course of his employment, and in doing so had breached principles 2, 6 and 10, and rule 14.1 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011.
The respondent’s culpability was high. The direct harm was minimal. However, his actions had created the risk of more significant harm. Wildly inaccurate time recording and the payment of client monies into a personal bank account without undertaking appropriate checks was conduct which might seriously harm the reputation of the profession. The respondent’s conduct, in relation to time recording, was aggravated by the fact it was deliberate, repeated and calculated.
His actions had lacked integrity in relation to both allegations. While he had not acted dishonestly, his conduct had fallen well below the minimum standards expected of solicitors. A fixed-term period of suspension followed by indefinite restrictions on practice was the appropriate combination of sanctions in all of the circumstances.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £20,000.
PG Solicitors t/a Edward Marshall
On 24 November 2021, the Adjudication Panel resolved to intervene into PG Solicitors t/a Edward Marshall and into the practices of Prince Goba, Waqas Hassan and Syed Hussain at the firm. The firm was based at Unit 1, 10-17 Sevenways Parade, Woodford Avenue, Ilford IG2 6JX. The firm had branch offices in Ilford, Mayfair, Marylebone and Broadstairs. The first date of attendance was 26 November 2021.
The grounds for intervention into Goba, Hassan and Hussain were:
- Reason to suspect dishonesty on Goba’s part in connection with his practice as a solicitor (paragraph 1(1)(a)(i) of Schedule 1 – Part I to the Solicitors Act 1974);
- Goba had failed to comply with SRA Rules (paragraph 1(1)(c) of Schedule 1 – Part I to the Solicitors Act 1974);
- There was reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of Hassan in connection with his practice at the firm (paragraph 5(3)(a) of Schedule 14 to the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990);
- Hassan and Hussain had failed to comply with SRA Rules (paragraph 5(3)(c) of Schedule 14 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990).
- The grounds for intervention into PG Solicitors t/a Edward Marshall were:
- Reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of Goba and Hassan, as managers of the firm, in connection with the firm’s business (paragraph 32(1)(d)(i) of Schedule 2 to the Administration of Justice Act 1985);
- Goba, Hassan, and Hussain as managers of the firm, and the firm itself, had failed to comply with the SRA Rules (paragraph 32(1)(a) of Schedule 2 of the Administration of Justice Act 1985).
John Owen of Gordons LLP, 1 New Augustus Street, Bradford BD1 5LL; tel: 0113 227 2117; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; has been appointed to act as the Society’s agent.
Goba’s practising certificate is suspended as a result of the intervention decision.