The non-solicitor who headed up Coops Law – the successor practice to controversial personal injury law firm Asons – has been sanctioned for frustrating efforts to protect Asons’ clients.
Irfan Khan Akram – the brother of Asons boss Imran Akram – has been banned from owning or working in alternative business structures (ABSs), in a rare use of the power in section 99 of the Legal Services Act 2007.
He has also been rebuked, fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,350.
The business of Asons Solicitors Limited was sold to Coops Law, an ABS, for £229,534 in March 2017, the day before the former was placed into liquidation.
In the month prior to the sale, Asons’ work in progress had a value of around £11m. Coops was closed down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in June 2017.
Irfan Akram was the sole owner, manager and head of finance and administration for Coops Law. In a notice published by the regulator yesterday, he was found to have breached multiple SRA principles and accounts rules, as well as outcomes under the old code of conduct. They included the duty to act with integrity.
The SRA found that Mr Akram:
- Used Coops’ purchase of Asons “to undermine and frustrate steps taken by the SRA to protect Asons’ clients’ interests and the public interest”;
- Played an instrumental role in securing the transfer ‘en masse’ of client files from Asons to Coops when he knew or ought to have known that he did not have client authority to do so;
- Provided insufficient information to Asons’ clients following the closure of Asons, which did not allow them to make an informed decision about Coops taking over conduct of their matter;
- Transferred client funds belonging to Asons’ clients from Asons’ client account to Coops’ client account and then transferred some of that money to Coops’ office bank account, as costs and disbursements, without client authority;
- Allowed under his supervision a Coops employee to send a generic email to over 100 Asons clients which disclosed the email addresses of all those clients to each other; and
- Paid ‘lead’ fees to a car hire company, in potential breach of the referral fee ban in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.
In February 2019, Munir Majid, who was Coops’ head of legal practice and sole lawyer manager, was suspended from practice for six months over the way 6,000 files were transferred from Asons.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal said Coops “did little or no work prior to the closing of Asons and it was believed that it was set up as a means to frustrate any potential SRA action against Asons and/or to prevent Asons’ funds from going to its creditors”.
It emerged last June that the liquidators of Asons were suing Coops, alleging that the former was sold at an undervalue and that there had been a contractual breach of the share purchase agreement by failing to pay the £99,400 premium for Asons’ run-off insurance.
Kamran Akram was suspended from practice for 18 months in July 2018. We reported last month that he has been disqualified as a director for seven years because of serial overcharging at Asons, and was separately given a five-year bankruptcy restriction undertaking over the transfer of an expensive car to a family member.
The developments followed February’s news that he has given an undertaking not to return to legal practice without the permission of a High Court judge after facing contempt proceedings.