Another barrister has fallen foul of the rules on public access, this time by handling client money, leading to a six-month ban from handling such cases and a £1,000 fine for then failing to co-operate with the Legal Ombudsman and Bar Standards Board.
Oliver White, based at 4-5 Grays Inn Square, is described on the chambers website as a “highly sought-after commercial barrister”, specialising in banking litigation and civil fraud.
Earlier this year he appeared alongside Cherie Booth QC in the High Court, representing the High Commissioner for Pakistan in a multi-million pound commercial banking dispute.
A five-person disciplinary tribunal, chaired by Suzan Matthews QC, found that Mr White had, between April 2012 and January 2014, “received and handled client money other than by receiving payment of remuneration for his own services”.
The tribunal said it was £5,000 received from a lay client, “part of which was intended to be used on behalf of the client to pay for investigative services by a third-party investigation agency”.
Mr White was also found to have failed to give the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) “all such reasonable assistance requested of him” between February and May 2014, following a complaint from the client.
This included “failing or refusing to discuss the complaint with the Legal Ombudsman”, and requesting a three-week extension to provide a response but failing to provide it within the time “or at all” prior to determination by LeO.
The tribunal found that Mr White had also “failed to provide all such information as he had been required to provide” by the BSB, between August and November 2014. Having “belatedly provided a response” on 24 November 2014, he was again found to have failed to provide information to the BSB the following month. The £1,000 fine was made up of three fines for each of these instances.
Mr White told Legal Futures that he is appealing against the sentence. He said that he had admitted the first charge, relating to client money, which was the result of an oversight. Mr White added that the BSB had expressly stated that there was no suggestion of dishonesty.
He said that a charge of failing to provide a client care letter was dismissed, and the remaining charges all related to “failure to deal with the original complaint in a timely fashion”, which he acknowledged.
Mr White said that, as reflected in the low level of the fines, his sentence was “substantially mitigated by reference to my personal circumstances”.