Decision - Agreement
Outcome: Regulatory settlement agreement
Outcome date: 17 March 2020
Published date: 9 November 2020
Firm or organisation at date of publication and at time of matters giving rise to outcome
Name: Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP
Address(es): 1 Whitehall Riverside, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS1 4BN
Firm ID: 460169
This outcome was reached by SRA decision.
REGULATORY SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT
- Simon Mark Pilling ("the Respondent") of 4 More London Riverside, London, SE1 2AU agrees to the following outcome of the investigation into his professional conduct under reference TRI/1280045-2019.
- The Respondent was admitted as a solicitor on 1 June 1992. At the material times, he was in practice as a solicitor and partner in Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP ("the Firm").
- The Firm acted for a corporate client ("Client A") in relation to a commercial scheme under which the Firm held funds, at the instruction of Client A, which were deposited by individual clients of Client A. The clients of Client A were not clients of the Firm. The Respondent caused the Firm to make payments, on the instruction of Client A, from the sums held pursuant to Client A’s instruction.
- The SRA’s investigation identified that the Respondent caused four such payments to be made from the Firm’s Client Account in the total sums of £27,770 and €77,868 other than in circumstances in which such payments were properly due to the recipients pursuant to instructions relating to an underlying transaction or to a service forming part of the Respondent's normal regulated activities.
- Accordingly, in respect of such payments, the Respondent was providing a banking facility to Client A.
- The Respondent wishes to make it clear that this situation arose because he took over existing arrangements at the Firm when Nigel Williams then a partner in the Firm’s Leeds office left the Firm. The Respondent states and the SRA accepts that the Respondent believed that as the arrangements had been in place for some time and had been set up by an experienced partner that they were compliant and had been authorised by the Firm.
- The Respondent accepts that he should have interrogated the history of the account and ensured that the arrangements were compliant and greatly regrets that he did not do so.
- The Respondent makes, and the SRA accepts, the following admission:
Between July 2017 and March 2018, he caused or allowed payments from monies held by the Firm as client monies other than in respect of instructions relating to an underlying transaction or to a service forming part of the Firm’s normal regulated activities, and in doing so provided banking facilities in breach of Rule 14.5 of the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 and Principle 7 of the SRA Principles 2011.
- The Respondent wishes to record and the SRA accepts that as soon as he was made aware of the issue he co-operated fully with the Firm’s investigation and approved the Firm’s report to the SRA dated 13 April 2018.
Responsibility for professional conduct
- The Respondent has accepted the breaches referred to above.
- The Respondent has agreed to the following sanctions:
- a fine of £1,000.
- The Respondent is fined £1,000 in respect of the breaches identified above.
- The Respondent agrees that this outcome will be published by the SRA and that it may also be disclosed to any person upon request or otherwise.
- The Respondent agrees to pay a contribution to the costs of the investigation, including the SRA’s legal costs, in the sum of £3,840 inclusive of VAT and disbursements within 28 days of receipt from the SRA of a statement of costs due.
- The Respondent agrees he will not act in any way inconsistent with this agreement by, for example, denying the misconduct admitted above.
- The Respondent understands and accepts that if any terms of this agreement are not complied with within the time limits agreed, or if the Respondent acts in any way inconsistent with this agreement, then his conduct will be referred to the SDT on the original facts and allegations and also on the basis that he has failed to comply with this Regulatory Settlement Agreement and that this will constitute a breach of Principles 2 and 5 and paragraph 7.3 of the Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs 2019.
- By entering into this Agreement, the SRA confirms that the decision to refer the Respondent’s conduct to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal dated 9 November 2019 is overturned.
The date of this agreement is 17 March 2020.