The Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) could fine former Addleshaw Goddard partner Mark Gilbert £20,000 following alleged discrepancies in his expenses, his counsel proposed earlier this week.
The SDT was asked for permission to drop claims of lack of integrity against Gilbert by the SRA. The tribunal concluded that the evidence submitted was irrelevant to the application and rejected it.
Gilbert will now have to wait until the summer to face the SDT when the tribunal will convene a fresh panel to hear the case.
The case against Gilbert centres on allegations of discrepancies in his expenses and disbursements whilst he was a partner at the firm. It is understood that 322 bills have been called into question following an investigation by the firm two years ago (30 May 2011). Gilbert resigned in April 2011.
During the hearing on Tuesday (21 January), the SRA and Gilbert’s counsel, 39 Essex Street’s Hodge Malek QC, suggested a £20,000 fine would be the best way to penalise the respondent. The proposed fee would dwarf the fine of £5,000 handed to Addleshaw partners Emmett Peters and David Wilson by the SDT in November (5 November 2013).
The tribunal refused to give the SRA permission to amend its case to drop the allegation of lack of integrity, despite giving Peters and Wilson permission to do so after they were investigated over discrepancies relating to disbursements last year (5 November 2013).
Malek had argued that Gilbert was under intense pressure, working 16 hours a day 6 days a week during the period under investigation. However the tribunal concluded that this was not relevant to the specific charge.
“Solicitors working in the City of London work much longer hours than those the solicitor would have worked,” said panel chair Mr A Ghosh.
Ghosh also said that even if the respondent was unaware of the firm’s taxi policy, which he said would be surprising given that he was an equity partner at Addleshaw Goddard, anyone should be aware that taxi fares should not be described as photocopying and scanning.
“The tribunal does not consent to the withdrawal of the allegations that the respondent did not act with integrity,” the tribunal concluded.
The SDT will now assemble a new panel to hear the rest of the case, meaning the hearing – originally scheduled to last three days from this week – could be delayed until the summer.
Addleshaw Goddard is not the subject of any disciplinary action by the SRA and was not implicated in the case. No clients suffered any loss as a result of the charges.
”Addleshaw Goddard promptly alerted the Solicitors Regulation Authority in connection with Mark Gilbert’s circumstances, and co-operated fully with the ensuing SRA investigation,” a spokesperson said.
”The circumstances and charges in relation to Mark Gilbert are matters which remain before the SDT, and it is inappropriate for us to comment further.”
Last week a former Stewarts Law partner had his case sent back to the SDT by the High Court (15 January 2014). Partner Andrew Shaw and associate Craig Turnbull were both struck off last February after a private application by former investment banker Geoffrey Logue (19 February 2013).