IN THE MATTER OF THE SOLICITORS ACT 1974 (as amended)
IN THE MATTER OF MICHAEL PETER ALEXANDER
REGULATORY SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT
1. Michael Peter Alexander, sole principal in the firm of Michael Alexander & Company, of 44-48 Oldham Road, Manchester M4 5EE, agrees to the following outcome of the investigation into his professional conduct under reference REG/42186-2009. References in this agreement to the firm are references to Michael Alexander & Company.
2. On 9 February 2009 the Practice Standards Unit of the SRA commenced an inspection of the firm. The investigation established that:-
- 2.1 The firm conducted claims on behalf of employment and personal injury clients who were referred to them by Legal Link Introductory Services Ltd trading as Justice Direct (“Justice Direct”). The firm conducted the claims pursuant to an agreement with Justice Direct dated 3 January 2008.
- 2.2 Mr Alexander confirmed that he had acted for eight clients who had been referred to the firm by Justice Direct. All claims referred were personal injury (including RTA) matters.
- 2.3 All eight matters were in the early stages of the claim at the time of the SRA’s inspection in February 2009, and were returned to Justice Direct shortly afterwards. No claims had been concluded and therefore no deductions from clients’ compensation had been made.
- 2.4 Mr Alexander’s CPD training record was not up to date and he had not completed the required amount of CPD training for 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007 or 2008. Despite this, Mr Alexander submitted an RF3 Practising Certificate renewal form which contained a declaration stating that he had met the CPD requirements for the period from 1 November 2006 – 31 October 2007.
3. Shortly after the PSU visit, Mr Alexander returned all files to Justice Direct and ceased accepting referrals from Justice Direct.
4. Mr Alexander subsequently provided updated CPD training records, the most recent of which was sent on 18 January 2011. This provided further details of courses attended but confirmed that the CPD requirements had not been met for the following practice years 1998/1999 to 2007/2008 (excluding the practice year 2004/2005).
Confirmation of Steps Taken
5. Mr Alexander confirms that he has reviewed all matters referred to him by Justice Direct and identified eight clients for whom the firm acted under Justice Direct referrals. Mr Alexander confirms that all eight files were returned to Justice Direct by 9 August 2010.
6. Mr Alexander further confirms that all eight matters referred by Justice Direct were in the early stages of the claim when they were returned and that no monies had been deducted from any client’s compensation.
Submissions to findings
7. Michael Peter Alexander agrees to submit to the following findings being made by the SRA:
- 7.1 Michael Peter Alexander failed to comply with Rule 1 of the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct 2007 (“the Code”) in that he allowed his independence to be compromised, failed to act in the best interests of his clients, and behaved in a way that is likely to diminish the trust the public places in him or the legal profession.
- 7.2 Michael Peter Alexander acted in circumstances where there was a conflict and/or a significant risk of conflict of interest between the interests of his clients and his own interests contrary to Rule 3 of the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct.
- 7.3 Michael Peter Alexander failed to keep the affairs of clients confidential in breach of his duties under Rule 4.01 of the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct.
- 7.4 Michael Peter Alexander acted in breach of Rule 9 of the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct in that he accepted introductions and referrals of business from Justice Direct pursuant to arrangements which were otherwise than in compliance with Rule 9.01 and 9.02 of the Code.
- 7.5 Michael Peter Alexander failed to meet the requirements of:
- (a ) the then Regulation 38 of the Training Regulations 1990 (prior to amendment) in that he had failed to completed the required amount of CPD in respect of the three-year period from 1 November 1998 to 31 October 2001;
- (b) Regulation 37 of the Training Regulations 1990 (as amended) in that he had failed to completed the required amount of CPD in respect of the practice years: 2001/2002, 2002/2003, 2003/2004, 2005/2006, 2006/2007, and 2007/2008; nor had he met the alternative transitional arrangements set out in Regulation 38 of the Training Regulations 1990 (as amended);
- (c) Regulation 40 of the Training Regulations 1990 (as amended) in that he had failed to keep a record of CPD undertaken that could be produced on demand.
- 7.6 Michael Peter Alexander provided inaccurate information to the SRA in form RF1 completed in relation to the 2007/2008 practice year, in breach of Rule 20.05(1) and Rule 1.02 of the Code.
8. Mr Alexander put forward the following mitigation in relation to the agreement with Justice Direct.
- 8.1 Mr Alexander entered into the agreement with Justice Direct in complete good faith. In particular the Opinion, and Refresher Opinion, of Mr Michael Ashe QC was supplied to him and he relied upon these Opinions. In addition, Mr Alexander relied upon the registration at the Ministry of Justice of the Justice Direct scheme as indicating approval thereof.
- 8.2 Mr Alexander had conduct of only eight cases for a relatively short period of time. Very little work had been undertaken and no monies were deducted.
- 8.3 Mr Alexander terminated his relationship with Justice Direct immediately the SRA raised any concerns and returned all files to them.
9. In relation to the failure to meet CPD requirements, Mr Alexander stated that he believed that he had indeed met the requisite CPD requirements, although he had not retained records of the same. He had completed and submitted the RF3 form in good faith, believing it to be correct.
10. An outcome that involves the findings as set out in paragraph 7 above is proportionate to the circumstances. Michael Peter Alexander is therefore severely reprimanded for the breaches identified in paragraph 7.
11. Mr Alexander agrees that he will not act in any way that is inconsistent with this agreement such as, for example, by denying the misconduct found in paragraph 7.
12. Mr Alexander agrees that this outcome may be published by the SRA and that it may also be disclosed to any person upon request or otherwise.
13. If Michael Peter Alexander acts in anyway inconsistently with this agreement, he accepts that proceedings could be issued before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal on the original facts and allegations and also on the basis that his failure to comply constituted a breach of Rule 1 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007.
14. Mr Alexander agrees to pay the costs of the investigation to the SRA in the sum of [ ] to be paid in 6 equal monthly instalments, first payment to be made within 28 days of the date of this agreement.
Dated this 16 day of June 2011
Solicitors Regulation Authority
Michael P Alexander