Non-lawyer owner banned from ABSs over secret profit ruling

SRA: Director lacked integrity

A non-lawyer owner of a law firm that has been hugely successful in running PPI claims has been banned from working for alternative business structures (ABSs) after he made secret profits from it.

Aaron Playle was a director and remains an owner of ABS FindMyClaims – also known as FMC Law – in Stevenage, Hertfordshire between 2007 and 2019.

In November 2019, a civil court found that he had made unauthorised withdrawals from FindMyClaims totalling £120,000 between 16 March and 28 March 2018, caused two contractors to overcharge the company by £91,576 and received secret commissions totalling £203,387.

According to a notice published by the Solicitors Regulation Authority yesterday, this was evidence that Mr Playle had failed to act with integrity or behave in a way that maintains the public’s trust in the profession.

He was made subject to a disqualification order under section 99 of the Legal Services Act 2007 which prevents him from working in an ABS, although not from owning one.

It is not the first time FMC has found itself in regulatory hot water. In March 2019, it was rebuked and fined a record £125,000 by the SRA for a raft of rule breaches, including sending millions of misleading and unsolicited marketing letters, and not verifying that it was taking instructions from the person who was entitled to bring the claim.

The deadline for making PPI mis-selling claims was 29 August 2019. FMC’s accounts show that, in the three years to 31 August 2019, it submitted around 210,000 claims, had a turnover of £52m, and profit after tax of £19m.

The figures collapse for the next financial year, with turnover just £51,000 given the “almost total cessation of billing following the final deadline for PPI claims” and a loss of £1.4m.

The company said its main business in the year had been recovering all outstanding invoice debtors while developing “a new business offering”: FMC now also operates a conveyancing operation called Brevis.

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