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Rebuke and fine for solicitor who handled clients’ divorces through unregulated company

Divorce: Solicitor held his firm out as authorised

A family law solicitor who held out his unregulated company as being an authorised law firm has been sanctioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

It is the second such case [1] in a matter of weeks and it has again been resolved by way of a regulatory settlement agreement, which means Anthony Gary Vingoe will not face a disciplinary tribunal.

He has been rebuked, fined £800 and ordered to pay costs of £600.

Mr Vingoe was a consultant solicitor at virtual firm Excello Law for over three years to 1 June 2016, since when he has been a consultant solicitor at West Sussex-based SDK Law.

He is also the sole director of Divorce & Finance Specialist Limited, which lists its business type as ‘Solicitors’ at Companies House but is not authorised or regulated by the SRA or any other legal regulator.

The agreement recorded that Mr Vingoe acted in three separate divorce matters between May 2015 and September 2016. In each case, he did so through Divorce & Finance Specialist Ltd – although two of them eventually became clients of SDK Law – and held it out as a solicitors’ firm.

In one case, he inserted the name ‘Divorce & Finance Specialist’ in the statement of truth under the section ‘name of applicant/respondent’s solicitor’s firm’.

In another, he wrote to the other side’s solicitors, the court and various third parties, informing them that Divorce & Finance Specialist Ltd was acting, while in the third he obtained the decree absolute for his client whilst acting as Divorce & Finance Specialist Ltd.

The SRA said Mr Vingoe did not inform the clients how the services which he provided were regulated or the regulatory protections they would, or would not, have as a result.

Mr Vingoe admitted multiple breaches of the SRA Handbook, including giving the impression that his company was a firm of solicitors, both through his correspondence and its website.

In mitigation, he said he did not deliberately breach the rules and that no clients suffered any loss, while in the case of one of the clients, “he was simply trying to help a lady finish her divorce” after another unregulated company handling her divorce, to which Mr Vingoe provided consultancy services as well, ceased trading.

The SRA said the agreed outcome was appropriate and proportionate in the circumstances.