Partner fined after charitable trusts used client account as bank

SRA: Sanction necessary

A charity law specialist who allowed two charitable trusts to use his firm’s client account as a banking facility has been fined £2,000 by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Jonathan Brinsden, a partner at BDB Pitmans, accepted the fine in a regulatory settlement agreement that means he will not have to face a disciplinary tribunal.

The conduct happened while he was in practice at Bircham Dyson Bell, prior to its 2018 merger with Pitmans Law.

The agreement said he offered the use of the firm’s client account to conduct transactions for two charitable trusts while waiting for the clients’ bank accounts to be opened.

The amounts paid through the client account were $118,000 for one client and $280,000 for the other.

Mr Brinsden accepted that this was in breach of ban on providing banking facilities through a client account as there was no underlying legal transaction and it did not form part of the usual work of solicitors. In doing so, he damaged trust in the profession.

In mitigation, he said it was an isolated incident and that “on reflection he made a mistake, which he did purely out of convenience for the clients, owing to delays in establishing bank accounts for the clients”.

The SRA said the agreed outcome was a proportionate outcome in the public interest “because the issuing of such a sanction is necessary to maintain standards by highlighting the risks arising from the behaviour in question and deterring such repetition”.

But there was no evidence of lasting harm to consumers or third parties and “a low risk of repetition”.

Further, at the time, Mr Brinsden understood that the transactions fell outside the ban “as they were part of his acting for charitable clients in connection with ‘traditional work undertaken by solicitors’. As such his actions were neither deliberate nor reckless”.

He also agreed to pay costs of £1,350.

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