Decision - Agreement
Outcome: Regulatory settlement agreement
Outcome date: 27 April 2018
Published date: 22 May 2018
Firm or organisation at time of matters giving rise to outcome
Name: Bott & Co Solicitors Ltd
Address(es): St Anns House, Parsonage Green, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 1HG
Firm ID: 605593
This outcome was reached by SRA decision.
Decision detailsDisqualification under section 99 Legal Services Act(Not a section 43 order)
REGULATORY SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT
1. Agreed outcome
1.1 Kevin Clarke, a former manager and shareholder of Bott & Co Solicitors Ltd (the Firm), agrees to the following outcome to the investigation of his conduct by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA):
- that, from the date of this agreement, he is disqualified from:
- acting as Head of Legal Practice of any licensed body
- acting as Head of Finance and Administration of any licensed body
- being a manager of any licensed body, or
- being employed by any licensed body
- he is rebuked
- he is fined £4,000
- to the publication of this agreement
- he will pay the costs of the investigation of £600.
1.2 In this agreement the term “licensed body” means a body which holds a licence in force under Part 5 of the Legal Services Act 2007 (as amended).
2. Summary of Facts
2.1 Mr Clarke was a manager and shareholder of the Firm from 31 May 2011 until 31 August 2017. He conducted civil litigation claims relating to airline flight delays.
2.2 In May 2017 Mr Clarke told clients in one of the group actions he was conducting that judgment had been entered against the defendant and that enforcement action was being taken. Neither of these statements were true. He also misled his clients as to the likely value of the claims.
2.3 Also in May 2017, Mr Clarke told one of his clients (client A) the Firm had received £5,000 in settlement of his claim. This was not true. The claim had in fact been struck out due to Mr Clarke’s error. Mr Clarke used his own funds to pay the £5,000 to his client to conceal the mistake.
2.4 Again, in May 2017, Mr Clarke told another of his clients (client B) his claim had been relisted at court. This was not true. Mr Clarke then misled client B on a number of occasions, suggesting that the delay in his matter was caused by the court. The delay was actually caused by Mr Clarke’s failure to progress the claim.
2.5 The Firm identified that Mr Clarke had misled a number of his clients. Mr Clarke admitted this. He sold his shareholding and left the Firm in August 2017.
2.6 The Firm and its insurers have paid substantial amounts to clients to make good the losses caused by Mr Clarke’s conduct.
3.1 Mr Clarke admits, and the SRA accepts, that he breached Principles 2, 5 and 6 of the SRA Principles 2011 and failed to achieve Outcomes 1.2 and 1.12 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 when he:
- misled his clients in the group action when he told them he had obtained judgment and was taking steps to enforce it
- misled client A by telling him that the matter had been settled, and
- misled client B about the steps he had taken to progress his claim.
3.2 Mr Clarke accepts that his conduct as set out above was dishonest.
4. Why the agreed outcome is appropriate
Section 99 disqualification
4.1 Mr Clarke and the SRA agree that a disqualification is appropriate because:
- the Firm is a licensed body
- Mr Clarke has breached rules as described in paragraph 3 above which, by virtue of section 176 Legal Services Act 2007 (LSA), applied to him
- the conditions in rule 3.3 of the SRA Disciplinary Rules 2011 (DPR) are met, in that:
- it is undesirable for Mr Clarke to engage in the activities listed in paragraph 1.1(a) of this agreement, and
- disqualification is a proportionate outcome in the public interest.
4.2 It is undesirable for Mr Clarke to engage in the activities listed in paragraph 1.1(a) of this agreement because he misled those relying upon him and attempted to cover up his mistakes. His conduct caused substantial losses to clients which the Firm and its insurers had to cover.
4.3 In deciding that disqualification is proportionate, the SRA has taken into account the disqualification criteria in Appendix 3 of the DPR and the following mitigation which Mr Clarke has put forward:
- that he co-operated with both the Firm’s and the SRA’s investigations
- that during the relevant time, he was suffering from a medical condition which impaired his judgment.
Rebuke and Fine
4.4 The SRA considers that a rebuke and a fine is appropriate because the conditions in rule 3.1 of the DPR are met, in that:
- the conduct was deliberate and caused loss to the firm and clients affected
- a rebuke and fine is a proportionate outcome in the public interest
- that the conduct was neither trivial nor justifiably inadvertent.
4.5 The amount of the fine takes into account all relevant circumstances and is calculated in line with the SRA’s published Guidance on approach to financial penalties dated 13 August 2013.
4.6 In deciding that a rebuke and fine is proportionate, the SRA has taken into account the admissions made by Mr Clarke and the mitigation he put forward.
4.7 The SRA considers it appropriate that this agreement is published in the interests of transparency in the regulatory and disciplinary process.
5. Acting in a way which is inconsistent with this Agreement
5.1 Mr Clarke agrees that he will not act in any way which is inconsistent with this agreement such as, for example, by denying responsibility for the conduct referred to above.
6.1 Mr Clarke agrees to pay the costs of the SRA's investigation in the sum of £600. Such costs are due within 28 days of a statement of costs due being issued by the SRA.