A non-lawyer owner of an alternative business structure (ABS) responsible for multiple rule breaches – including a £3.6m shortfall on his firm’s client account – has been banned from working in another one.
A finding of dishonesty was made against Mohammed Yasin and he was made subject to a disqualification order under the Legal Services Act 2007 that prevents him from owning or working for another ABS.
As Ipswich firm Mayland Porter is an ABS, a different and to date rarely used statutory regime applies to that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) uses for traditional firms.
According to a decision published yesterday by the SRA, Mr Yasin made improper payments from the firm’s client account which led to a minimum identified cash shortage of £3.6m as at 31 August 2017, money that was not replaced “promptly or at all”.
He also allowed Mayland Porter – which according to the SRA is in the process of closing down – to become involved in conveyancing transactions “which bore the hallmarks of fraud”.
Other breaches were that Mr Yasin:
- Allowed false and misleading documentation, including correspondence and undertakings, to be provided to solicitors for other parties in conveyancing matters;
- Transferred client money to third parties without authority or instructions from the relevant clients. On one matter, he transferred client money to a bank account in his personal name, without the client’s authority or instructions;
- Failed to carry out adequate enquiry in relation to the identity, employment history and practising status of an employee.
- Failed to exercise appropriate supervision over the firm’s London office and the staff who were working there;
- Failed to notify serious misconduct at the firm to the SRA and to co-operate with the SRA in its inspection of the firm.
- Failed to manage an orderly closure of the firm and to engage with the firm’s professional indemnity insurer.
This breached no fewer than five of the SRA principles.