A law firm shut down by its regulator last year has been ordered to pay former staff £375,000 for multiple employment law breaches.
The Foster Partnership, which operated from four offices in Kent, was closed by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers last October for unspecified breaches of the code of conduct and to protect the interests of clients.
The employment tribunal has issued judgment in default in claims by 21 staff after the firm failed to respond in time.
The claims sought compensation for unfair dismissal by reason of redundancy, breach of contract in respect of notice, failing to comply with collective redundancy procedures – meaning a protective award of 90 days’ pay – loss of statutory rights, unauthorised deductions from wages, and unpaid holiday accrued.
The payments ranged from £5,500 to more than £50,000 to Paul Dickinson, who was the firm’s head of strategy and development.
Local media have conflicting reports of how many people worked at the firm, with one saying 30 and another around 100.
In 2016, The Foster Partnership bought the conveyancing practice of Foster Mackay Ltd, trading as Fosters Law, for £120,000 in a pre-pack deal following administration. Both firms were led by Edward Foster.
The non-conveyancing business was sold for £80,000 to County Solicitors – also headed by Mr Foster. The Solicitors Regulation Authority closed that down on Christmas Eve last year.
A spokesman for The Foster Partnership was quoted in the Isle of Thanet News last October as saying: “In September 2018, during our annual regulatory audit, our independent auditors discovered breaches of our professional rules, including serious accounting errors. In accordance with the regulatory requirements, these were reported to the CLC.
“Since that time, we have worked tirelessly with the CLC, our auditors and indemnity insurers to identify and rectify the issues, including implementing more stringent management and accounting policies.
“In spite of this, the CLC have obviously run out of patience and have taken the drastic step of intervening in the practice.”