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NEWS - July 2007

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Solicitors and other lawyers making the bad news from 2003 to date: News Roundup

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Refco lawsuit
Thomas Lee sues law firm over Refco role

Buyout firm Thomas H. Lee Partners has sued law firm Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw over the firm's alleged role in a cover-up at commodities firm Refco. In 2004, Lee acquired a controlling stake in Refco, once one of the world's dominant commodities and derivatives-trading firms. Yet in 2005, Refco said an internal review had uncovered an improper loan scheme, a finding that led to the discovery of multiple sham loan transactions to hide customer losses. The disclosure led to Refco's seeking bankruptcy protection. Lee's lawsuits and a bankruptcy examiner’s report published this month allege that Mayer Brown handled 17 loan transactions that helped Refco shift bad loans off its books. Lee claims that the law firm knew about the bogus transactions and did not inform Lee when the buyout firm was conducting due diligence before its 2004 purchase.

Financial News U.S.

30 Jul

New Law Soc head promises support in time of change

FIONA Woolf last week (19 July) stepped down as the president of the Law Society to make way for immigration lawyer Andrew Holroyd. Holroyd, a partner at Liverpool-based Jackson & Canter, took over the reins of the solicitors’ representative body at the AGM. Holroyd vowed to lead the entire profession through “what is bound to be a period of immense change and challenge”, with legal aid and the Clementi reforms very much in flux. The new president said the society’s main role is to support solicitors and he will endeavour to do this by travelling the country to find out the profession’s issues first-hand.

The Lawyer

27 Jul

Tadley solicitor handed six-month jail term for scamming banks and building societies

A TADLEY solicitor has been jailed for his part in a mortgage scam. Robert Stober, aged 68, of Silchester Road, Tadley, was handed a six-month jail term at Winchester Crown Court last Thursday, July 19. Also in the dock was businessman Douglas Caffell, aged 42, of Long Lane, Shaw, who received a suspended sentence. In February this year, ringleader Phillip Carter, aged 41, of The Green, Silchester, admitted four counts of false accounting, five counts of conspiracy to defraud and three counts of obtaining money transfer by deception. The court heard Carter had tried to re-mortgage property without declaring his exisiting mortgages and loans. Several banks and building societies fell foul of his scam.

Newbury Today

27 Jul

Judge criticises Court of Appeal on mediation

A senior High Court judge has criticised the Court of Appeal’s thinking on mediation in the key decision of Halsey v Milton Keynes NHS Trust, which he said was ‘clearly wrong and unreasonable’.
Mr Justice Lightman claimed the 2004 ruling has created a barrier to mediation that should be removed. Giving a lecture at City firm SJ Berwin, the judge said the ‘disadvantaged citizen’ is ‘all too often without legal redress or protection’, and that mediation pre-trial was one of the only methods of providing affordable access to justice, even if it is only an ‘approximation’ of justice. But, he said, the use of mediation is being stifled by the Court of Appeal’s decision in Halsey, in which it laid out that parties could not be forced into mediation and that the burden for ‘proving reasonableness’ over refusing to mediate is not on the party that refused. Mr Justice Lightman said these two propositions were ‘unfortunate, and clearly wrong and unreasonable’.

Law Society Gazette

20 Jul

Law Society names new president

Fiona Woolf today (19 July) stepped down as the president of the Law Society to make way for immigration lawyer Andrew Holroyd. Holroyd, a partner at Liverpool-based Jackson & Canter, took over the reins of the solicitors' representative body at the AGM. Holroyd vowed to lead the entire profession through "what is bound to be a period of immense change and challenge", with legal aid and the Clementi reforms very much in flux.

The Lawyer

19 Jul

Correction

"Some of our more eagle-eyed readers might have spotted a mistake in the July issue of Legal & Medical..The article on page 17, entitled The Money Pit, ended rather abruptly. We apologise for this – please find the whole article reprinted in full."

The money pit
Matt Stanley picks through the issues exposed by Lord Lofthouse’s report on the coal health compensation scheme..“I am of the firm opinion that the British Coal litigation evidences regulatory ineptitude on a scale the like of which has never been seen before in this country.” So states Lord Lofthouse’s April 2007 report to the Lords, which is also frank in its naming of “double-charging” solicitors and blistering in its accusation that nothing has been done to review the Law Society’s handling of the original cases.

Legal & Medical

19 Jul

The High Court judge who may be in for much more than a severe wigging

Mr Justice Peter Smith, best known for the code in his Da Vinci Code judgment, is in hot water with the Lord Chief Justice. But could he have had more of a helping hand from the Establishment?

It looked as if things could not get worse for Mr Justice Peter Smith, the judge who may go down in history as the "judge who lacked judgment". He had been castigated recently by the Court of Appeal for failing to stand down in a case involving trustees where he had shown "undoubted animosity" towards one of the parties, and issued a defiant statement, digging in his heels, which at the very least made him look foolish.

Times Online

19 Jul

Solicitor, fined £8,000, vows to continue

A well-known Bletchley solicitor fined £8,000 by the Law Society for "unbefitting" conduct has vowed to carry on practicing. Richard Nixon appeared before the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal earlier this year after a scrutiny into his company's handling of four property transactions, including one house which formed part of a will. The tribunal heard the firm acted for both buyer and seller in two of the cases – and both houses were bought by Mr Nixon's own wife to renovate and sell again.

Milton Keynes Today

19 Jul

SOLICITOR IS JAILED FOR CHEQUE FRAUD

A Plymouth-based solicitor has been jailed for two years for fiddling cheques and expenses totalling £19,000. Priya Prashar, aged 29, of Trobridges, doctored cheques to make them payable to her own bank account while working for another firm in London. She denied the charges but was found guilty after a trial of false accounting, theft and perverting the course of justice. Prashar, who gave her address as Harrow in West London, moved to the Mutley-based firm two years ago after the offences were committed in 2003 and 2004. But Trobridges partner Tim Waine said that the firm only became aware of the allegations about nine months ago.

The Herald Plymouth

18 Jul

Red tape cost more than sick miners got in compensation

Almost 300,000 miners with a disabling chest disease have received less money in compensation than it cost the Government to administer their claim, a report discloses today. “Significant weaknesses” in the Department of Trade and Industry’s handling of the world’s largest personal injury scheme are identified in the report, published by the National Audit Office (NAO). They led to long delays before many elderly and infirm miners received any money, but proved to be lucrative for solicitors’ firms, which grew rich by bulk-processing tens of thousands of claims.

Times Online

18 Jul

Law Society to pay £100,000 to miners

The Law Society will pay out up to £100,000 to sick miners after their law firms provided inadequate professional services in relation to the British Coal compensation scheme. The society has taken the extraordinary step after one or two solicitors firms deferred paying the miners until after their hearings before the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT). Under the present rules awards only become enforceable after the matter has been referred to the SDT and the tribunal has ordered the solicitors to pay.

The Lawyer

12 Jul

Wigs and gowns to go in judicial dress reforms

Judges are to end centuries of tradition and abolish wigs and gowns for civil and family cases, the Lord Chief Justice announced this morning. The 300-year old horsehair headgear is to go in large numbers of trials from next year, along with wing collars and bands, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers said. But in a compromise that ends one of the most hotly-disputed and lengthy debates in legal circles, judges sitting in criminal courts will keep their wigs on. And solicitor-advocates, who have long fought for parity with barristers, will be allowed to don the same traditional costume that is the hallmark of the Bar.

Times Online

12 Jul

Lawyer for defence in the wrong, says judge

A solicitor who represented three of the July 21 defendants has been criticised by the judge for her conduct during the trial. Mudassar Arani tried to cover up lengthy delays in providing statements from her clients by seeking to blame prison staff, Mr Justice Fulford said. He described her complaints about Belmarsh jail, southeast London, as a smokescreen and said they were written in “extremely intemperate language”.

Times Online

12 Jul

United States: Supreme Court Clarifies Securities Fraud Standards

In a new 8-1 decision favorable (sic) to issuers, the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the pleading requirements for securities fraud claims under section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act as imposing a heightened burden on allegations concerning a defendant’s state of mind. (A riveting read, this one. UJ)

Mondaq

11 Jul

Lawyer for defence in the wrong, says judge

A solicitor who represented three of the July 21 defendants has been criticised by the judge for her conduct during the trial. Mudassar Arani tried to cover up lengthy delays in providing statements from her clients by seeking to blame prison staff, Mr Justice Fulford said. He described her complaints about Belmarsh jail, southeast London, as a smokescreen and said they were written in “extremely intemperate language”. After sentencing, the judge said: “These complaints, in my view, were designed to justify the late service of the defence statements . . . or some of them. I consider these complaints to be wholly unjustified.”

Times Online

11 Jul

Freshfields to face M&S disciplinary hearing next month

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer will go before the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) at the beginning of August for its role in the Marks & Spencer (M&S) takeover bid three years ago. Corporate chief Tim Jones and former corporate head Barry O'Brien will go before the SDT on 2 August the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority confirmed today (11 July). In 2004 the magic circle firm advised business tycoon Philip Green on his £9bn bid for M&S, despite having previously acted for the retail chain. The then regulatory arm of the Law Society began an investigation into the conflict of interest, resulting in Jones and O'Brien being referred to the SDT last October.

The Lawyer

11 Jul

Law Soc warned about complaints conduct

The Legal Services Complaints Commissioner Zahida Manzoor today (10 July) raised concerns that the Law Society was not handling complaints in line with its own policies. The warning comes as Manzoor published her third Annual Report, which showed that the Legal Complaints Service (LCS) and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) had closed more than 20,000 complaints in the last financial year within a budget of £36m. The Commissioner said that the performance of the LCS and SRA had been mixed.

The Lawyer

10 Jul

Solicitors 'discriminated against'

Nearly a quarter of solicitors claim to have been discriminated against at some point in their careers, a survey said. The findings came in a Law Society of Scotland survey which is said to provide the most in-depth study of the profession to date. More than 3,000 solicitors, almost a third of the profession, replied to the survey. And 22% said they had been discriminated against, on grounds of either age, sex, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation, marital status, or because they worked part-time. Forms of discrimination included bullying, harassment, being left out of communication, and allocation of work. But only 9% of those suffering discrimination reported it.

Midlothian Today

09 Jul

Why are lawyers miserable: want a list?

The juxtaposition of two stories in The Times last week – one reporting that top-flight City lawyers were charging as much as £1,000 an hour for their expertise, another that a quarter of lawyers wanted to leave their profession – raised a pertinent question: just why are those in the legal business so miserable? The Law Society has recently been trying to provide an answer, but its “quality of life” review, taking the form of workshops, debates and online surveys, has been dragging on inconclusively like a complex fraud case and also seems to have missed some vital evidence from across the pond.

Times Online

09 Jul

NHS pays out £592m a year for blunders - and a third goes to lawyers

More than half a billion pounds of Health Service cash has been paid out over blunders as the compensation culture booms. Of the £592million spent on negligence claims last year, almost a third went directly into the pockets of lawyers. Experts say increasing numbers of cases are being taken to court by "no win no fee" solicitors, who tout for business even in A&E waiting rooms. If they win, these lawyers ask the court for more in costs than legal aid would, to cover their risk.

Daily Mail

09 Jul

Kennedy caught smoking on train

Charles Kennedy has been 'spoken to' by police after being caught smoking on a train. The former Liberal Democrat leader, who quit from the top job after admitting an alcohol problem, received the reprimand from British transport police following his behaviour on a Great Western train. Mr Kennedy was said to have been on the 11.05am from Paddington to Plymouth this morning. According to the BBC, Mr Kennedy was caught smoking by train staff, who informed the police, but he was not arrested. (Poor old Charles - no booze, no fags - what pleasures are left? UJ)

Guardian

06 Jul

TV 'sting' solicitor struck off

A solicitor filmed in a TV "sting" giving advice to an undercover journalist on how to stop witnesses testifying has been struck off. David Lancaster, 57, from Havant, Hampshire, was taken off the solicitors' roll at a Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal on Thursday. Lancaster was jailed for three years in October for inciting the reporter to pervert the course of justice.

BBC

06 Jul

Client hospitality comes under the spotlight in Bar standards review

Bar Standards Board unveils ‘blush test’ as key plank of new guidance on chambers hospitality as senior Bar figures say the regulator has managed a deft balancing act. Claire Ruckin reports on the latest developments at the Bar. The Bar Standards Board (BSB) was surely taking a risk when it based its eagerly-awaited ruling on chambers hospitality on something as intangible as a blush. But if the reaction of the legal profession is anything to go by, the BSB has been spared any blushes of its own following its unveiling of a new ‘blush test’ against which to measure whether chambers hospitality is over the top or not. The test forms the central plank of a new set of guidelines on the offering of hospitality and gifts to solicitors that will be issued shortly to all sets of chambers by the BSB. While barristers will be allowed to continue entertaining their clients, they will be warned that ‘lavish’ entertainment risks bringing the profession into disrepute.

Legal Week

05 Jul

SRA unveils revamped solicitors’ rulebook

The new-look Solicitors’ Code of Conduct was finally unveiled this week, five years after the Law Society first announced it was to review the system. The 25 new mandatory guidelines, which came into force on 1 July with immediate effect, were drawn up by the professional ethics division of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). They replace the 47-year old Guide to the Professional Conduct of Solicitors. The publication of the new rulebook, which is intended for solicitors and law firm managers across England and Wales, follows a Law Society review of the rules that began in 2002. Download the full Code of Conduct as a pdf file from the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Legal Week

05 Jul

Town fraudster jailed after £145,000 scam

A FRAUDSTER from Burnham who stole over 145,000 from a law firm in a "highly devious" scam has been jailed for 28 months. Poplar Road man Allan Geoffrey Thompson, 54, pleaded guilty to ten theft offences, two of falsifying documents and asked for a further 25 thefts and 11 false accounting crimes to be taken into consideration. Bristol Crown Court heard prosecutor Paul Cook explain how Thompson took money from estates accounts he had access to between 1998 and 2006 when he worked at Veale Wasbrough...When Veale Wasbrough discovered what had happened the firm reimbursed clients accounts in full, before notifying police.

Burnham & Highbridge Weekly News

04 Jul

Solicitor cleared of perverting course of justice

A solicitor spoke of his relief after a jury cleared him of being part of a bribery deal to get a criminal case dropped. Mark Rogers, 39, a well-known defence lawyer in Sussex, was found not guilty at Lewes Crown Court of perverting the course of justice. Friends, family and colleagues crowded into the public gallery reacted with tears and cries of delight as the jury returned its verdict after a ten-day trial. After he left the court Mr Rogers, who closed his own business following his arrest on the allegations last year, struggled to maintain his composure as he said: "I am relieved it is all over.

The Argus

03 Jul

FSA warns of criminal gangs cashing in on insider dealing

Gangs of organised criminals may be infiltrating the mergers and acquisitions departments of British investment banks to garner inside information on takeover bids, the City watchdog suggested yesterday. The Financial Services Authority accused banks of being “complacent” about the risks that their own staff might be guilty of illegally exploiting secret bid information. Banks and other advisers needed to do more to investigate the source of leaks and should do more to reduce the huge numbers of people with access to price-sensitive information, the FSA said. It criticised banks and other advisers for failing to monitor and control personal dealings in shares and derivatives by their staff. Weaknesses in controls on information technology and lack of staff training were also raised as problem areas.

Times Online

03 Jul

Internet landbanking scam exposed

Three companies involved in selling plots of agricultural land to the public have been wound up in the High Court, following an investigation by the Companies Investigation Branch (CIB) of the Insolvency Service. Townfield Land Investments Limited acquired agricultural land near Southwold in Suffolk under an option agreement with a local farmer. It was then marketed to the public by Libertas Land Limited, by sub-dividing the land into plots of 2,000 square feet at a price of around £9,000 per plot. CIB's investigation revealed that the plots had been sold using the internet to at least 250 members of the public across the UK at some 50 times their agricultural value and furthermore, the site was inherently unsuitable for residential development. In particular, the site was within an area of outstanding natural beauty and a part of the Heritage Coast, where planning authority policy is not to permit development. See also: Alerts section

Money Extra

03 Jul

One in four lawyers wants to change jobs

Almost a quarter of lawyers want to leave the profession because of stress and long hours, according to a survey published this week. The poll of 2,500 lawyers also indicates that assistant solicitors — those who are not partners — are even more unhappy, with more than a third wanting to give up their jobs. The YouGov survey for The Lawyer magazine confirms that there is widespread dissatisfaction with the work-life balance in law, despite record levels of pay. It coincides with an inquiry by the Law Society of England and Wales into the long hours and lack of career prospects for lawyers with families.

Times Online

02 Jul

SRA “Wake up” warning to solicitors

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has warned that rule breaking will not be tolerated after a Law Society council member was fined at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT). Glyn Maddocks, council member for the West Country and Gwent and a partner at Gabb and Co admitted to five breaches of professional rules in relation to his dealing with the coalminers’ compensation scheme. He was reprimanded for failing to recognise a conflict of interests between the firm and it’s clients as a result of his relationship with the claim farmers IDC, with other breaches including the paying of unlawful referral fees by his firm. The SRA, who brought the case, believes the outcome shows the authority’s determination to fight for the interests of sick miners.

Legal & Medical

02 Jul

 

 

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