Sheridan, Brian Bosco
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the decision below.
Outcome: Specific outcome agreed
Outcome date: 10
Published date: 16
Firm or organisation at date of publication and
at time of matters giving rise to outcome
Name: LDJ Solicitors
29 Dugdale Street, Nuneaton, Warwickshire, CV11 5QN
Firm ID: 48816
This outcome was reached
- Martin Bunney
- Graham Donald Ridgway
- Gordon Harry Ian Daniels
- Alan Edgington
- Simon Dawson Marlow-Ridley
- Duncan Broomfield Plester – left 31.03.10
- Brian Bosco Sheridan
Regulatory Settlement Agreement
- 1. Messrs Bunney, Ridgway, Daniels, Edgington, Marlow-Ridley, Plester and Sheridan of LDJ Solicitors of 28 Dugdale Street, Nuneaton, CV11 5QN (e.g. “the Partners”) agree to the following outcome of the investigation into their professional conduct under reference REG/47007-2010.
- 2. On 25 and 26 January 2010 the Forensic Investigation department of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (“SRA”) carried out an inspection of the Firm and produced a Report dated 17 March 2010 (“the Report”).
- 3. The Report identified that the firm had an agreement with MG (a firm of independent financial advisers) to receive a share of the commissions received in matters where the clients had been referred to MG by the firm. The amount of any share was determined by reference to a sliding scale and differed depending on the amount of commission received by MG initially. Further, if the commission payment received was less than £500, then the firm received no share.
- 4. The Report noted that between 16 June 2005 and 11 November 2008 disclosure of the commission being received; the amount of the commission received; and the consent to retaining the commission was given to the solicitors’ client and obtained by MG, rather than the firm. During this period the firm’s share of such payments amounted to £14,794.71. It was also noted that between 11 November 2008 and 29 September 2009, monies were received in respect commission payments in 4 client matters where no disclosure was made to the affected clients, nor any consent obtained from the client either by MG or the firm to retain those monies.
- 5. The partners’ response to the issues identified was sought and has been considered by the SRA.
- 6. The Partners of LDJ Solicitors make, and the SRA accepts, the following admissions:-
- a) between 31 March 2003 and 30 June 2007 the partners, in relying upon a third party to make disclosure of commission payments received and the agreement for the firm to receive a share of such payments and to obtain the necessary consent to retain those payments, failed to communicate to, and get consent from, their clients directly in accordance with the expectation of the rules.
- b) between 1 July 2007 and 4 February 2010 the partners failed to obtain their clients’ informed consent (e.g. giving information about the amount involved) to retain the firm’s share of commission payments received by MG.
- c) between 11 November 2008 and 29 September 2009 monies were received by way of commissions in respect of 4 client matters where no consent had been obtained from the clients, informed or otherwise, to retain those monies. In the circumstances, these funds were client monies and the subsequent transfer of the funds from client to office account amounted to an improper transfer in breach of the accounts rules.
- 7. The current equity partners, namely Messrs Bunney, Ridgway, Daniels, Edgington, Marlow-Ridley and Sheridan undertake that they will:-
- a) Within 3 months of this agreement will make all reasonable efforts to trace and contact all clients identified in the Report from whom the authority to retain commission payments was obtained by MG rather than the firm itself. They will take the following steps to trace the affected clients:
- (i) Write to clients in the first instance at their last known and/or recorded address, informing them that the Firm may owe them money and requesting a response within 14 days;
- (ii) If no response is received within that period, write a second letter to affected clients, providing a further 14 days for response;
- (iii) Provide the SRA with a monthly update of progress to include a list of all clients’ names and addresses and amounts reimbursed, and/or such other information and documentation that the SRA may require from time to time, including documentary evidence of a client’s consent to the firm retaining a commission payment where applicable;
- b) Within 6 months of the date of this agreement, reimburse to all clients identified in the Report from whom the authority to retain commission payments was obtained by MG rather than the firm itself, all amounts due to any of those clients who do not consent to the firm retaining the sums received in respect of commissions.
- 8. The issue of non-disclosure appears to have affected a relatively small number of clients and the total amount of deductions made by the firm was relatively modest.
- 9. The conduct of the Partners throughout their relationship with MG demonstrated a willingness to comply with the relevant rules, at one stage seeking guidance from Professional Ethics about one specific aspect of the relationship.
- 10. The evidence provided on behalf of the Partners demonstrates that due consideration was given to the appropriateness of referring a client to MG and includes the use of other independent financial advisers where it was felt to be more appropriate to an individual client’s needs.
- 11. The Partners have readily accepted the breaches identified and have demonstrated a willingness to remedy matters going forward, and have already taken remedial steps upon their own initiative.
Responsibility for professional conduct
- 12. The SRA considered that, as the partners have accepted the above breaches and have agreed to account to those affected clients whom they are able to identify within the period stipulated above it likely that an Adjudicator or Committee would not restrict the partners’ ability to practise and an outcome that involves full and prompt restitution to clients and the admissions set out in paragraph 6 above, is proportionate in all the circumstances.
- 13. The partners are therefore each made subject to findings in respect of the breaches identified in paragraph 4 above and warned as to their future conduct.
- 14. The partners agree that this outcome will be published by the SRA and that it may also be disclosed to any person upon request or otherwise.
- 15. The partners agree to pay the costs of the investigation, in the sum of £1950.00 within 14 days of finalisation of this agreement.
- 16. The partners agree they will not act in any way inconsistent with this agreement by, for example, denying the misconduct admitted in paragraph 6 above.
- 17. If the undertakings contained in paragraph 7 above or any other terms of this agreement are not complied within the time limits agreed, or if any of the partners act in any way inconsistently with this agreement, the partners accept that the matter could be referred back to an Adjudicator for consideration, including referral to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal on the original facts and allegations and on the basis that the partners’ failure to comply constitutes a breach of Rule 1 of the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct 2007.
Dated this day of October 2010
(for the Solicitors Regulation Authority)
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