Law firm fined for dealing with CMC and not its clients

Personal injury: Firm did not check clients’ identities

A personal injury firm which did not deal directly with clients referred by a claims management company over six years has been fined by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Manchester firm TPC Solicitors showed “a reckless disregard of the risk of harm” to clients through its conduct, according to a notice last week.

The regulator said that it issued a £7,500 fine because TPC failed to ensure both that “it took into account the attributes, needs and circumstances of its clients” and that clients were “in a position to make informed decisions about the services they needed and the options available to them”.

Further, it failed to carry out identification checks to confirm who it was acting for.

The misconduct was aggravated by the length of time it persisted, as well as the lack of both “remorse or insight” and any specific remedial action either taken or proposed.

The fact that no clients actually suffered any harm and the firm’s hitherto clean regulatory history were mitigating factors.

However, some individuals previously involved at the firm have been disciplined. In 2020, Elizabeth Teresa Gilmour, who was a partner between 2004 and 2019 and latterly its compliance officer for finance and administration too, was suspended for 18 months.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) found she had been “manifestly incompetent” and her “neglect and carelessness” in failing to pay professional disbursements, leading to a shortage in TPC’s client account of £214,000.

The SRA banned a non-lawyer partner at the firm – which became an alternative business structure in 2015 – from being a manager or compliance officer as a result of Ms Gilmour’s actions.

An SRA adjudicator accepted that Shahida Mohamed had not become aware of the accounts issue until the regulator became involved in June 2018 but said she ought to have known what was happening if she had been fulfilling her regulatory obligations as a manager.

She also failed to make good the shortage promptly – while Ms Mohamed and Ms Gilmour had paid £30,000 in July 2018, the rest was not replaced until that October by a new partner, Rizwana Majid, paying £180,000.

Ms Mohamed unsuccessfully appealed the sanction to the SDT. According to Companies House, she resigned as a director a year ago, leaving Ms Majid its sole director.

The SRA says TPC Solicitors closed in March this year, while Companies House says it entered voluntary liquidation in May, owing an IT company £45,000.

However, Ms Rizwan is also sole director of a relatively new company, TPC Legal, at the same address, whose website is under construction.

    Readers Comments

  • David Gale says:

    Interesting. Courts fail on this regularly: “failed to ensure that it took into account the attributes, needs and circumstances of its clients… and failed to carry out identification checks”. Documented examples of courts failing to make reasonable adjustments for court users and failing to respond to evidenced reports of identity theft by individuals purporting to be medical experts. Note too that the GMC has confirmed that, despite receiving reports of related criminal activity, it has no provision to deal with reports of medical court expert identity theft.

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