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Struck-off solicitor turned claims manager cannot return to roll

Cold-calling: Ex-solicitor’s CMC fined £220,000

A struck-off solicitor who became a claims manager, and was fined £220,000 for cold calling, cannot return to the profession, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has decided.

Having failed to pay the costs not only of his striking-off, but of two previous applications to return to the roll, the SDT told Aurangzeb Iqbal not to make any further attempts without its permission.

Mr Iqbal was suspended for six months in 1998, with conditions imposed on his practising certificate.

He was then struck off in 2004 for a mixed bag of eight disciplinary offences, including “running a solicitor’s practise in a manner designed to circumvent conditions imposed upon his practising certificate”.

Other allegations upheld by the SDT were withdrawing money from client account “other than as permitted”, using “confusing and misleading notepaper” and failing to account for VAT.

In 2012, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) approved his employment as a legal clerk under stringent conditions, but for reasons beyond his control, the job did not materialise.

Mr Iqbal then ran a claims management company (CMC), which in 2015 was fined £220,000 by the Claims Management Regulator for making cold calls to people registered with the Telephone Preference Service. This too is still outstanding.

The SRA told the tribunal said Mr Iqbal had not paid £94,500 in intervention costs when his law firm was shut down. Meanwhile his former clients were awarded £554,000 by the Compensation Fund.

The SDT said it was “extremely concerned” that Mr Aurangzeb sought to rely on his work as a claims manager to support his application for restoration to the roll, but had not mentioned the findings of the First-tier Tribunal (FTT), which rejected his appeal against the fine in 2016.

The FTT found the former solicitor’s conduct to have been “reckless, negligent and in flagrant breach of the regulations”.

The SDT said not only did this misconduct show that he was “not an appropriate person to be readmitted” but his failure to mention it “gave further serious concern”.

The tribunal said it “fundamentally” disagreed with the submission by Mr Iqbal’s counsel that the irregularities highlighted by his previous appearances before the SDT related to how he ran a firm and not to him as a lawyer in practice and his ethical standards.

It went on: “When he was in situations where he did not agree with regulatory controls, whether in practice or otherwise, the applicant had shown, by his own actions, that he would disregard those regulations so as to conduct himself in any way he saw fit.”

The tribunal found it “troubling” that Mr Iqbal “thought it appropriate to make this application in the knowledge that the costs for his previous two applications were still outstanding, and were being borne by the profession”.

Counsel for Mr Iqbal argued that dishonesty had never been alleged against him, and the 14 years since the solicitor was struck off was “a significant amount of time within which rehabilitation could occur and public confidence could be restored”.

The former solicitor’s counsel admitted he “had transgressed” in his role as a claims manager, but “the transgressions related to the commercial aspects of his business as opposed to the law itself”.

Mr Iqbal had now been offered a job as an in-house solicitor with a company which was “aware of the irregularities and transgressions of the past”. He could safely be allowed to return to practice with “extremely restrictive conditions”.

However, the tribunal said Mr Iqbal had shown “no insight into the seriousness of his previous misconduct” or the importance of rules and regulations.

“The tribunal did not consider that there was any condition or combination of conditions that if imposed, would protect the public and the reputation of the profession.”

The SDT refused Mr Iqbal’s application for restoration to the roll, ordered him to pay costs of almost £5,000 and told him he could not make further applications until he paid the costs of the three he had already made.