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NEWS - Mar 2007

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Solicitors and other lawyers making the bad news from 2003 to date: News Roundup

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View from here: The two faces of law

In January 1986 Lawrence Mulloy, NASA’s rocket project manager, convinced himself — in the face of unanimous engineering advice to the contrary — that cold weather would not affect the rubber seals on the booster rockets of the Challenger Space Shuttle. The ensuing disaster is one of the best-known examples of the dangers of self-deception, or ‘doublethink’ as George Orwell memorably termed it in his novel 1984. The ability Mulloy demonstrated — to blind ourselves to an unwelcome reality — is generally thought to be a capacity we evolved in ancient times to survive. Whatever its advantages to our ancestors, in the modern world it can be a problem, especially for solicitors, bankers and accountants. A professional’s obligation is to comply with his client’s instructions. But when he is suspicious that his client is a fraudster he must not blind himself to that concern. If he does there may be implications under money laundering legislation, for one thing. There is also the victim of the fraud to think of. Fraudsters have a habit of spending the victim’s money and disappearing. With the principal culprit no longer worth pursuing, victims of fraud often sue those who have assisted them to spend or hide the money. The most attractive targets are the fraudster’s bankers, accountants or solicitors. There is, as any claimant knows, nothing like a well-heeled defendant who cannot make a run for it.

Legal Week

31 Mar

Lawyers warn on legal aid reform

Lawyers' groups have issued a dire warning about the effect of government reforms to the legal aid system. They have signed a letter to the Times newspaper denouncing the changes as an unprecedented threat to social justice. The government thinks the £2bn spent each year on legal aid is too much and wants a flat-rate system to save £500m. Lawyers fear the flat fee will not cover their costs in cases such as mental health, child custody or housing which can be complex and take time.

BBC

30 Mar

FSA bankrupts boiler room scam lawyer

Solicitor Adrian Sam has been made bankrupt by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) after his law firm Adrian Sam & Co (ASC) assisted an illegal overseas boiler room scam. The FSA took the action after ASC and the firm's former partner John Martin failed to comply with a Court of Appeal ruling in 2005 that ordered the law firm to pay £360,000 to 63 investors to whom it helped peddle cut-price shares as part of the scam. Jonathan Phelan, the FSA's head of retail enforcement, said: "This case is a warning to others who act as a UK front for boiler rooms that the FSA will use its full powers against them where possible to recover losses for the victims of their illegal activities."

The Lawyer

29 Mar

Law Society in push for Whitehall PC fees

The Law Society is attempting to force Government lawyers to pay for practising certificates (PCs) in a controversial move that could gift the body around £1m a year. Chancery Lane is lobbying to amend a part of the Solicitors Act that exempts solicitors from the Treasury, the Church Commissioners, the Duchy of Cornwall and any other public department from holding a practising certificate.

Legal Week

29 Mar

FSA plans more hedge fund access

People in the UK will find it easier to invest in hedge funds, under plans from the Financial Services Authority (FSA). The FSA is consulting on a proposal to let investors put money directly into "funds of hedge funds" based in the UK. Private UK investors can already invest in foreign hedge funds, or buy shares in hedge funds management firms that are listed on the London stock market.

BBC

29 Mar

Home Office to be split into two

The Home Office will be split into two separate departments for security and justice, the BBC has learned. A new Ministry of Justice will oversee probation, prisons and preventing re-offending, Tony Blair is expected to tell MPs on Thursday. A separate Home Office will deal with terrorism, security and immigration.

BBC

29 Mar

Pensions' worker jailed after stealing £265,000

A Hemel Hempstead pensions' team leader was jailed for 21 months for stealing more than a quarter of a million pounds from the company he worked for. Ian Norman, 28, of Cavendish Court, created fictional beneficiaries and spent the money on homes, cars, home improvements and holidays, St Albans Crown Court heard.

Hemel Today

27 Mar

Phoney solicitor struck off legal register

A law clerk who pretended to be a solicitor to pocket nearly £7,000 from unsuspecting clients was banned from the legal profession today. Brian Ferguson falsely claimed he was a lawyer working for a respected firm who could act in a complicated property dispute. But the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard that Ferguson had never worked as a lawyer for the firm Harringtons, based in Ditchling Road, Brighton.

The Argus

27 Mar

'Tesco law' will take over if law firms don't shape up

The legal landscape is changing, but a large number of lawyers do not even seem to have noticed. Discussions around the Legal Services Bill, which is making its way through Parliament, have focused almost exclusively on the minutiae of regulation and have largely failed to look at the big picture of what the industry will look like in 20 years' time. This could be fatal for those in the profession, who are likely to face increasing competition.

The Lawyer

27 Mar

Charity manager jailed for theft

A manager facing credit card debts has been jailed for five years after admitting stealing more than £500,000 from two health charities. Keith Foster, 49, of Billericay, Essex, stole £160,000 when manager of the British Association of Hand Therapists. He then changed jobs and took £400,000 from a government compensation fund for people who had caught hepatitis C through blood transfusions. Foster also admitted 30 other charges of deception at Basildon Crown Court.

BBC

27 Mar

Financial sanctions loom as LawSoc lags behind on performance targets

The Law Society’s complaints-handling arm is facing the threat of financial sanctions as it emerges that Chancery Lane is in danger of missing several performance targets. The Legal Complaints Service (LCS), which handles around 18,000 public complaints against solicitors every year, this week confirmed it was expecting to miss some of its quality targets by its next deadline of 31 March. Legal Services Complaints Commissioner (LSCC) Zahida Manzoor last year set the LCS a goal of leaving no more than 65 open cases over 15 months old by the end of March 2007.

Legal Week

22 Mar

Pay of Scotland's top solicitors has nearly trebled in seven years

Scotland's elite solicitors have seen their pay almost treble in the last seven years amid booming demand for commercial legal advice. A typical profit-sharing partner at one of the leading firms banked £223,000 last year, fully £90,000 more than in 2005. This compares with a return of just £87,000 in 2000, according to the only official survey of Scottish lawyers' profits.

The Herald

22 Mar

SRA wheels out new solicitors Code of Conduct

The new-look Solicitors Code of Conduct will come into effect from 1 July, 2007, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) announced today (19 March). The new guidelines will replace the Law Society’s old Guide to the Professional Code of Conduct for Solicitors and comprise 25 non-mandatory rules for practising solicitors and law firm managers. Lawyers will be encouraged to access the latest version of the code online after it received final ministerial approval this week. Under the reforms, law firms will be required to replace the phrase ‘Regulated by the Law Society’ on their notepaper with the new wording ‘Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority’.

Legal Week

20 Mar

Law Society slams Govt plans to scrap fraud juries

The Law Society has made its strongest attack yet on plans to scrap juries in fraud trials, saying that the Government “must be stopped”. The call this morning (19 March) comes just a day before The Fraud (Trials without a Jury) Bill goes before the House of Lords. The bill scraped through the House of Commons by just 35 votes last November. Peers will tomorrow vote on an amendment tabled by Lord Kingsland which, if carried, would prevent the bill from becoming law in the current parliamentary session.

The Lawyer

19 Mar

Courts face week of disruption as defence solicitors work to rule

Criminal courts throughout England and Wales face widespread disruption this week as legal aid defence solicitors stage a new wave of protests against proposed changes to the way their services are paid for. More than 1,000 are expected to take part in a mass lobby of parliament this afternoon as a prelude to three days of working to rule in magistrates courts around the country.

Guardian

19 Mar

Big Bang put on hold as Legal Services Bill delayed till 2010

The Legal Services Bill is unlikely to come into force before 2010 in a move that will raise questions over the future of the UK profession’s much-hyped ‘Big Bang’ law reforms. The Bill is set to receive Royal Assent this autumn and had been expected to come into force during 2008-09, making the UK by far the most liberal legal services market in the world. However, Parliamentary under-secretary of state for constitutional affairs Bridget Prentice this month conceded in a meeting with the Bar Standards Board that the closely-watched legislation is unlikely to be implemented until 2010 at the earliest. A spokesman for the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) this week said that the Bill was generally expected to come into force “two to three years” after Royal Assent. Unofficially, the DCA has indicated that the Bill is unlikely to come into force until 2011.

Legal Week

16 Mar

Berlusconi and Mills start defence of $600,000 corruption charge

The trial of David Mills and Silvio Berlusconi on corruption charges gets under way in Milan this morning, more than a year after Italian prosecutors published the corporate lawyer's admission that he had received $600,000 (£310,000) from "B's people".

Belfast Telegraph

13 Mar

Law body receives 4000 complaints

A total of 4091 complaints alleging professional misconduct or inadequate advice by lawyers were lodged with the Law Society of Scotland in 2006, it has been revealed. In around a quarter of the cases, no further action was deemed necessary, the figures showed. Asked why the society had failed to take action in about 25% of the cases, Philip Yelland, director of regulation, said: "The society's complaints committees, made up of 50/50 solicitors and non- solicitors, carefully consider all the facts and then base their decisions on the evidence available.

The Herald

13 Mar

US class action star targets UK

Big business beware: litigation supremo Michael Hausfeld is setting up shop in Britain and he’s in the mood for a good fight. By Holly Watt

IN American corporate boardrooms, the mere mention of the name Michael Hausfeld is enough to spread panic among directors and investors. He is one of the country’s top litigators who has won billions in compensation for everyone from Holocaust victims to Alaskan fishermen and consumers ripped off by Microsoft. This month Hausfeld is opening a London office and is preparing an aggressive assault on British companies. In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Times this weekend, he said that there “are laws [in Britain] and they’re not being enforced”. From the new London office, the firm will take on a wide range of cases across the corporate spectrum. He reels them off: “We’re looking at competition, cartel enforcement, human rights, employment, investor rights and environmental issues.”

Times Online

12 Mar

Lawyers demand legal aid reforms

Lawyers yesterday demanded reform of civil legal aid rules which they say have turned swathes of Scotland into "advice deserts". Many Scots are finding it all but impossible to find a solicitor willing to take on a civil case, especially a family law matter, on legal aid. The reason, claim lawyers, is that payment is made in a lump sum that has no bearing on the amount of work involved.

The Herald

10 Mar

Detective jailed for sex grooming

A highly-decorated Flying Squad detective who tried to groom a schoolgirl for sex over the internet has been jailed for 18 months. Det Con Glenn Algar, 45, from Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, thought he was sending emails to the girl. But he was sending the lurid messages to a colleague working under cover. Algar had also admitted possessing child pornography. The Southwark Crown Court judge ordered him to register as a sex offender for 10 years. Algar is now banned him from working with children for life.

BBC

08 Mar

Fraud 'costs UK £20bn a year'

Fraud in the UK is running at £20bn a year - the equivalent of around 6p on income tax, according to a new report. Police figures released today, the first major attempt at calculating revenues lost through fraud, put the figure at a minimum of £13.8bn. But when estimated losses from income tax fraud, under-reporting and fraudulent applications for European Union grants are added, the true cost of fraud rises to £20bn. The report was commissioned by the Association of Chief Police Officers, and presented to MPs today.

Guardian

07 Mar

Attack On All Fronts?
Solicitors´ Liability Briefing Winter 2007

The Legal Services Bill is intended to make sweeping changes to legal services regulation and complaints handling. However, some may regard the new legislation as a missed opportunity if it fails to address a number of problems with the existing regulatory framework. In this article we examine some of the difficulties faced by the profession in responding to complaints, and whether the proposed legislation addresses these difficulties.

Mondaq

07 Mar

Investment 'scandal' risk warning

Investors could be at risk under plans to weaken consumer protection for foreign firms listed in London. Foreign investment companies are exempt from rules introduced after investors lost hundreds of millions of pounds in split capital investment trusts. Now there are warnings of another financial scandal if City watchdog the FSA does not change its mind. The companies' trade body wants all firms to be subject to the same regime wherever they are based.

BBC

04 Mar

Bank workers jailed over fraud

A JUDGE jailed two bank employees over a fraud in which hundreds of thousands of pounds was taken from customers' accounts without their knowledge. Sentencing Gemma Louise Eggleton and Craig Fitzallen Jackson at Leeds Crown Court yesterday, Judge Shaun Spencer QC said they allowed themselves to be "corrupted into defrauding Abbey customers of substantial sums of money". Eggleton, who was an assistant branch manager at the age of 18, had helped those behind the scam to defraud three accounts of more than £370,000 in 2004, while, Jackson, an acting branch manager, was responsible for £330,000 being taken from accounts.

Yorkshire Post

03 Mar

'Too nice' Canadians fraud targets

Canadians are too nice and don't hang up on fraudsters, letting them talk their way into relieving you of cash or cheques, according to authorities who are trying to clamp down on a $1-billion-a-year mass-market fraud industry. "Canadians are pretty nice. We have our manners. We don't want to hang up on bad people," said Barbara Carter, the national program director for the ABCs of Fraud, a program of Volunteer Toronto, at the launch of the fourth annual Fraud Prevention Month today.

The Star (Canada)

See also: Alerts

02 Mar

Divorce lawyers 'steer couples to court for profit'

Lawyers are cynically steering divorcing couples away from cheap mediation sessions and into costly court battles to boost their fees, an official report claims. With four out of five divorces ending up before a judge, millions of pounds of taxpayers' money is being squandered on legal aid, according to the National Audit Office.

This is London

02 Mar

'Slow progress’ on coal health investigation.

Some solicitors facing disciplinary hearings over the coal health compensation scheme are deploying a ‘very aggressive’ approach – including in some cases threats to sue Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) staff personally – the government was told last week. In a letter to Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) minister Bridget Prentice, sent ahead of a meeting last week to discuss the issue, SRA board chairman Peter Williamson conceded that ‘the complexity of the cases, coupled with the aggressive defences being mounted, means that progress has not been as fast as we had wished’.

Law Society Gazette

02 Mar

'City Slicker' James Hipwell loses appeal

Financial journalist James Hipwell has failed in a bid to challenge his conviction for stock market manipulation. Hipwell, who used the City Slickers column in the Daily Mirror to ramp shares in a "tip, buy and sell" scam that netted him nearly £41,000, had his case rejected by three judges in the Court of Appeal in London.

Press Gazette

01 Mar

Scheme for victims could be extended

The constitutional affairs minister today suggested a scheme using victim impact statements in courtrooms should be extended. The minister, Harriet Harman, said the pilot scheme that was first introduced last April, may be extended to other crimes such as death by dangerous driving. She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the scheme could also be rolled out to more courts than the five in which it now operates: Old Bailey, Birmingham, Manchester Crown Square, Cardiff and Winchester.

Guardian

01 Mar

The boiler room boys are back with a new 'bargain'

When you get an unsolicited call from someone you have never heard of, who knows nothing of your circumstancesbut still feels able to recommenda £30,000 investment deal, the only good reason for chatting to them for ten minutes is to waste their time and stop them calling another potential victim.

This is Money

01 Mar

Shares scam front firm shut down

The High Court has shut down a UK firm which acted as a front for bogus overseas investment companies. The Inertia Partnership was wound up after the Financial Services Authority (FSA) petitioned judges to have the East Sussex-based firm closed. Inertia took more than £1m from people who had been sold shares by firms known as "boiler rooms", the FSA said. The outfits are unauthorised and use cold-calling tactics to sell shares.

BBC

28 Feb

 

 

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