• Application 11464-2016
• Admitted 1963
• Hearing 25-27 October 2016
• Reasons 23 November 2016
The SDT ordered that the respondent should be struck off the roll.
The respondent had failed to maintain proper books of accounts, contrary to rule 29 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011, in that he had failed to: maintain proper accounting records; appropriately record all dealings with client money; maintain separate books of account for non-sterling transactions; conduct client account reconciliations at least once every five weeks; identify shortages; and justify the use of a suspense ledger account.
He had failed promptly, or at all, to remedy those breaches, in breach of rule 7 of the rules, and principles 4 and 10 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2011.
He had used client account as a bank facility for clients, contrary to rule 14.5 of the rules and, where such use took place prior to 6 October 2011, rule 15 of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 1998 in allowing funds to be paid into, and out of, client account, when there was no underlying legal transaction to which such payments were linked.
He had failed to comply with anti-money laundering legislation, contrary to outcome 7.5 of the code and in relation to the period prior to 6 October 2011, rule 5.01 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007, in that funds were paid into his firm’s client account without satisfactory due diligence having taken place as to the source thereof; and he had failed to comply with regulations 5 and 7 of the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 in failing to verify client identity.
He had acted in transactions where there was a conflict or a significant risk of a conflict of interest, contrary to outcome 3.5 of the 2011 code and, in relation to the period prior to 6 October 2011, rule 3.01(1) and (2)(a) of the 2007 code.
He had failed to act in the best interests of clients, contrary to principles 4 and 10 and outcomes 1.1 and 1.2 of the 2011 code.
In acting for clients in purported transactions which bore the hallmarks of money laundering and/or fraudulent financial arrangements, he had failed to act with integrity and to behave in a way that would maintain the trust the public placed in him and in the provision of legal services, contrary to principles 2 and 6, and rules 1.02 and 1.06 of the 2007 code where such conduct related to a period prior to 6 October 2011. In so doing, he had acted dishonestly.
Dishonesty had been alleged and proved; the misconduct was deliberate, calculated and repeated; it had continued over a period of time; and the respondent knew or ought reasonably to have known that the conduct complained of was in material breach of obligations to protect the public and the reputation of the legal profession.
The respondent had had a long career with no previous disciplinary proceedings. He had paid monies to clear the balance of the suspense account, but had not done so when he was first aware of the issue or when he first said that he would. He had no genuine insight and had not made early and frank admissions.
A lesser sanction than strike-off would be inappropriate, and there were no exceptional circumstances that justified a reduction in sanction.
The respondent was ordered to pay costs of £40,000, not to be enforced without leave of the SDT.