A trainee legal executive has been fined £2,000 by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for taking almost £24,000 from his law firm’s client account.
The SRA said Joseph Aaron Cooper had taken a further £580 from the office account of BRM Solicitors, a general civil practice based in Chesterfield, Derbyshire.
As well as the fine, Mr Cooper was ordered to pay £600 costs and made subject to an order under Section 43 of the Solicitors Act 1974, banning him from working for a law firm.
A spokesman for BRM told Legal Futures: “Mr Cooper was a trusted employee of 10 years standing.
“He betrayed our trust and immediately upon discovery of his actions we reimbursed client account, reported Mr Cooper to the SRA and Mr Cooper resigned. No client suffered any loss.”
In a decision notice on its website, the SRA said Mr Cooper was employed as a trainee legal executive between September 2003 and December 2013. During his employment Mr Cooper was “found to have taken £23,861 from the firm’s client account” and “failed to pay into the firm’s office account the sum of £580”.
The SRA said Mr Cooper resigned in December 2013 and was not “currently involved in a legal practice”.
The section 43 order means that no solicitor, employee of a solicitor, recognised body or member of a recognised body can employ or remunerate Mr Cooper.
In addition he is banned from being a manager of a recognised body or having an interest in one – except with the SRA’s permission.
In a separate decision, the SRA imposed a section 43 order on Carlos Alberto Geremia, a business development consultant at Maxwell Alves Solicitors, based in Clerkenwell, London, and with offices in Edinburgh and Hong Kong.
The regulator said Mr Geremia had “acted in such a way that it was undesirable for him to be involved in a legal practice” without the SRA’s permission.
The SRA said that the evidence showed, on the balance of probabilities, that Mr Geremia “failed to account to his employer for all of the money paid either to his personal bank account or to him in cash by clients of the firm when the clients intended that the money was to pay for the fees they owed the firm”.