Decision - Agreement
Outcome: Regulatory settlement agreement
Outcome date: 9 March 2020
Published date: 17 March 2020
Firm or organisation at time of matters giving rise to outcome
Name: Sekhon & Firth LLP
Address(es): Commercial House, 140-148 Manningham Lane, Bradford, West Yorkshire BD8 7JJ
Firm ID: 424228
This outcome was reached by SRA decision.
1. Agreed outcome
1.1 Iqbal Singh Sekhon, a former partner of Sekhon & Firth LLP (the ‘Firm’), agrees to the following outcome to the investigation of his conduct by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA):
- to a fine of £2,000
- to the publication of this agreement
- he will pay the costs of the investigation of £12,450.00.
2. Summary of Facts
2.1 The Respondent was admitted as a solicitor on 15 July 1999. At the material time, he was in practice as a partner at the Firm.
2.2 On 13 May 2009, the Respondent caused a payment of £400,000, by a third party (the ‘Third Party’) into the Firm’s Office Account in partial satisfaction of a liability owed by Person A to the Respondent. The Third Party and Person A were not clients of the Firm at the time of, or in relation to the payment of £400,000.
2.3 Between 13 May 2009 and 15 May 2009 the payment of £400,000 was then transferred into the Firm’s Client Account.
2.4 The Respondent admitted that the purpose of the payment from Person A to the Firm was to discharge, in whole or part, Person A’s liability to him in respect of matters which did not form the basis of the solicitor/client relationship or instruction.
2.5 The SRA’s investigation identified that the Respondent caused the payment of £400,000 to be made from the Firm’s Office Account to the Firm’s Client Account 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.
2.6 Notwithstanding that the Respondent considered the £400,000 paid by Person A to be Office Money (applying the definition set out in the Solicitors Accounts Rules 1998), he caused or allowed the transfer of such sums from the Firm’s Office Account to the Firm’s Client Account.
2.7 After transfer to the Firm’s Client Account, the Respondent caused the sums to be dispersed by way of smaller payments. The Respondent has asserted that such payments were in settlement of his own personal liabilities, in respect of matters unrelated to clients’ instructions.
3.1 Mr Sekhon makes the following admission which the SRA accepts:
- Between 13 and 15 May 2009, the Respondent caused or allowed a payment to be made into the Firm’s Client Account other than in respect of instructions relating to an underlying transaction or client monies which were required to be kept separate from any sums held by or for the Firm and in doing so breached Rule 15 of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 1998.
4. Why a financial penalty is an appropriate outcome
4.1 The SRA’s Enforcement Strategy sets out its approach to the use of its enforcement powers where there has been a failure to meet its standards or requirements.
4.2 When considering the appropriate sanctions and controls in this matter, the SRA has taken into account the admission made by Mr Sekhon.
4.3 The SRA considers that the maximum financial penalty is the appropriate outcome because:
- Mr Sekhon is no longer practising as a Partner with control of a client account.
- Mr Sekhon has cooperated with the SRA’s investigation.
- The breach is serious but protection of the public/public interest in this case does not require a greater sanction than the SRA is able to impose.
5.1 The SRA considers it appropriate that this agreement is published in the interests of transparency in the regulatory and disciplinary process. Mr Sekhon agrees to the publication of this agreement.
6. Acting in a way which is inconsistent with this agreement
6.1 Mr Sekhon agrees that he will not deny the admissions made in this agreement or act in any way which is inconsistent with it.
6.2 If Mr Sekhon denies the admissions referred to in paragraph 3 above or acts in a way which is inconsistent with this agreement, the conduct which is subject to this agreement may be considered further by the SRA. That may result in a disciplinary outcome or a referral to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal on the original facts and allegations.
6.3 Denying the admissions made or acting in a way which is inconsistent with this agreement may also constitute a separate breach of Principles 2 and 5 of the SRA Principles 2019 and paragraph 7.3 of the Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs.
6.4 By entering into this Agreement, the SRA confirms that the decision to refer Mr Sekhon’s conduct to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal dated 22 August 2019 is overturned.
7.1 Mr Sekhon agrees to pay the costs of the SRA's investigation in the sum of £12,450.00. Such costs are due within 28 days of a statement of costs due being issued by the SRA.