A solicitor who misused client money after excluding his accountants from his firm’s financial processes and cutting out his salaried partners too has been struck off.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) said that even if Sam Themis’s failure to maintain financial records “initially arose out of indolence”, it created an environment “where he could carry out the other misconduct alleged against him without leaving a paper trail”.
Mr Themis, born in 1960, qualified in 2003 and was the sole equity partner of two-office Essex firm ST Solicitors.
He had two salaried partners, both of whom left in the weeks before the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) intervened in the firm in late August 2019, which took place shortly after Mr Themis had declared it closed and shuttered the offices.
The SDT found that Mr Themis failed to protect Client C’s money, which he was holding from the sale of a property in October 2018 until the completion of a related purchase in February 2019.
During that period, the amount held was less than the £127,000 it should have been on nine occasions, including on the date of completion. Mr Themis had to pay £16,000 into client account so the completion could go ahead. The SDT said he acted recklessly in doing so.
He further made a dishonest £5,000 unallocated client to office transfer, the SDT held.
Mr Themis also allowed the firm to close in August 2019 in a disorderly manner, seeking to blame the two salaried partners in a notice on its website.
The SDT described the message as “confusing” – advising clients that “they might or might not collect files from an office which was in fact closed” – and said Mr Themis took “no proper steps to notify either his clients or the regulator that he was closing the firm”.
It continued: “He had abandoned clients in the middle of their matters and sought to blame his salaried partners for actions which were totally his own.”
He also breached multiple accounts rules by not keeping any ledgers – notes of financial transactions were kept on individual client files – and making no reconciliations since 2015.
Mr Themis failed to co-operate with the regulator – and did not engage with the tribunal process either. The ruling indicated that the SRA Compensation Fund had paid out to his clients but did not detail how much.
Deciding to strike him off, the SDT said Mr Themis was “in complete control of the firm”.
It explained: “He was the COLP, COFA and MLRO for the firm, and compounded his responsibility and culpability by excluding his accountants from financial processes.
“Once he started to take on salaried partners, he refused to allow them access to accounting information.
“The tribunal concluded that his motivation was his own personal financial advantage.”
He was ordered to pay costs of £23,400.