A former partner at Blake Lapthorn has agreed with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) that he will apply for his name to be removed from the roll after admitting five improper withdrawals of client money totalling almost £222,000.
The SRA said that in each case David Harry Salt used a client’s money, without consent, for the benefit of another client – known as ‘teeming and lading’.
However the regulator said the firm had replaced the shortfall immediately from its office account and “recovered the funds” from Mr Salt.
In a regulatory settlement agreement published on its website, the SRA said south coast firm Blake Lapthorn, which merged last year to become Blake Morgan, identified a shortfall on client account in June 2012.
“Further investigation by the firm revealed that £50,300 had been improperly withdrawn from a client’s ledger at the request of Mr Salt.
“The shortfall had initially been £39,000 but increased to £50,300 due to interest accrued for late payment of stamp duty land tax owed on an unrelated client matter, on a transaction that completed in July 2005 when Mr Salt practised at a former firm.”
The SRA said it began a forensic investigation of Mr Salt’s client files in July 2012.
A report, produced at the end of the following year, “exemplified five matters where withdrawals were improperly made from client account by Mr Salt”. The payments, all made between July 2005 and December 2008, ranged between £28,660 and £75,000.
The SRA that in every case, Mr Salt “did not obtain his client’s written or other consent” to use the money from one client for the purpose of another.
“The clients concerned were unaware of the said withdrawals. Furthermore Mr Salt failed to disclose these transfers to anyone at the firm or, where relevant, his previous firms.”
The SRA said Mr Salt, aged 46, was no longer practising and “suffered from significant ill health” at the time of the misconduct.
He admitted the allegations against him. The SRA said Mr Salt ceased practising as a solicitor at Blake Lapthorn in June 2011, has not practised as a solicitor since June 2012 and did not “intend to practice again”. He accepted that had he been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, he may have been struck off.
But the regulator said that, “in light of Mr Salt’s admissions and mitigation, including the medical evidence of his ill health”, instead the solicitor had undertaken to apply within 28 days for his name to be removed from the roll.
Mr Salt agreed not apply to have his name restored to the roll, though he could apply for “reconsideration of the issue at some time in the future”.
He also agreed never to “seek or accept employment or remuneration in connection with the provision of legal services” by any person or body regulated by the SRA or any other approved regulator without the consent of that regulator.
Mr Salt agreed to pay £1,350 in costs to the SRA.
Walter Cha, managing partner of Blake Morgan, commented: “We reported this matter to the SRA as soon as it was identified, following Mr Salt’s departure from the firm in 2011.”