SRA finally moves to shut down Axiom Ince

Ince: The end of a venerable City name

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has today closed down Axiom Ince, the scandal-hit law firm that was on the verge of collapse.

The regulator said the move was “to protect the interests of clients and former clients of the firm”.

It follows the closures of the individual practices of chief executive Pragnesh Modhwadia, and fellow partners Idnan Liaqat and Shyam Mistry.

The firm had just filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators in any case, while the SRA has reported concerns to the Metropolitan Police.

The intervention covers 14 offices across the country given Axiom Ince’s recent acquisitions of Ince & Co and Plexus Law in pre-pack sales for £2.2m and £1.1m respectively.

“As there are on-going investigations related to this matter, no further details can be disclosed,” the SRA said. “It is only if further action become necessary that any information is released into the public domain. There is no timescale for how long this work will take.”

Mr Modhwadia’s practice was shut on the grounds that there was “reason to suspect dishonesty” on his part as well as breaches of other rules.

At a recent High Court hearing, he admitted that about £64m had been taken from Axiom’s client account in part to buy Ince & Co and Plexus Law, and also buy six properties and renovate a further seven.

One of his solicitors told Legal Futures that Axiom Ince should have sufficient assets to meet the claims for the missing money.

Speaking at an SRA media briefing last week, chief executive Paul Philip said the regulator had “done everything it should have”, explaining that it had probed the goings-on at the firm “because it is unusual for a small firm to take over a large firm”.

The SRA did not intervene in the whole firm in August, when it acted against the three individuals “because it appeared to be a deliberate act of dishonesty and the other partners had nothing to do with it”.

It is this that might prevent claims on the SRA Compensation Fund, as a firm’s professional indemnity insurance should cover losses where there are innocent partners to another’s default.

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