The head of marketing at a firm that took money from the scandal-hit Axiom Legal Financing Fund has been banned from working in the profession after he accepted kick-backs from referral fees paid with Axiom money.
Francisco Xavier Rodriguez-Purcet was head of marketing and business development at Tandem Law from August 2011 to April/May 2013.
Earlier this year, Andrew Lindsay, the 95% owner and a director of the Manchester and Preston firm, was struck off for his involvement with Axiom. He has appealed.
The firm borrowed just shy of £6m, but its total liability to the fund was more than £10m, none of which has apparently been repaid.
Mr Rodriguez-Purcet used Axiom money to pay referral fees to Legal Appointments Limited (LAL), a company owned by a friend of his. Over a 10-month period, Tandem paid LAL £281,000
He said the payments were in return for services and that Mr Lindsay had approved them.
However, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) said the evidence showed that there was an “excess” amount with each payment that belonged to Mr Rodriguez-Purcet and Mr Lindsay.
“There was nothing… to suggest that any payment was as a result of services performed… The tribunal found beyond reasonable doubt that [a series of emails] established that Axiom monies were being taken by the respondent as a secret profit, those monies being siphoned through LAL.
“In taking a kick-back, it was evident that the respondent had failed to act with integrity.”
The tribunal added that his dishonesty “was of the highest order”.
The Axiom money was supposedly to fund ‘right to buy’ negligence cases against other solicitors, and the SDT also found that Mr Rodriguez-Purcet was a director of two companies which he arranged to receive details of Tandem’s clients so they could be cold-called about re-mortgage services.
He even allowed them to say that they were calling from Tandem.
Mr Rodriguez-Purcet argued that the clients were not cold called because they were already clients and they had provided consent to be contacted.
The SDT ruled that the scheme used confidential client information, and complaints received by Tandem showed that clients had not consented to their information being used in this way.
“The tribunal found that the respondent’s conduct in this regard lacked integrity; a person working in a solicitor’s office should not use confidential client information to promote a money making or marketing scheme without first obtaining client consent… His conduct had been reckless.”
It concluded that Mr Rodriguez-Purcet was “motivated by financial gain for himself, to the detriment of the Axiom Fund”.
The tribunal continued: “His conduct had caused harm to the reputation of the profession and to the fund; none of the Axiom monies loaned to Tandem had been repaid, and thus the fund had suffered a significant financial loss. His conduct was aggravated by his proven dishonesty.
“The tribunal was satisfied that it would be undesirable for him to be employed by a solicitor in connection with his or her practice as a solicitor without the permission of the SRA.”
Mr Rodriguez-Purcet was also ordered to pay costs of £35,000.
Tandem Law went into administration in 2013, when its assets were bought in a pre-pack deal by fellow Manchester firm Anthony Hodari.