SRA launches mortgage fraud investigations of 60 lawyers

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is investigating up to 60 lawyers for alleged mortgage fraud after complaints more than tripled since 2004.

SRA spokesman Geoff Negus said the Authority is taking the lawyers’ involved in mortgage fraud extremely seriously.

“The Solicitors Regulation Authority is investigating 40 to 60 solicitors who may be involved in mortgage fraud,” added Negus.

According to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), complaints against solicitors rose from 85 accusations in 2004 to 293 in 2007.

The news comes as the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is also investigating links into solicitors as part of a larger probe into mortgage fraud. The SFO has searched 42 locations including four law firms. No arrests have been made in the ongoing investigation, an SFO spokeswoman.

The complaints centre around organised mortgage fraud that took place in the early 1990s leading to UK lenders losing an estimated £700m last year. The grievances include the overvaluation of new buildings and deliberate inflation of commercial real estate prices.

The SRA refused to reveal the identities of the individuals involved but Browne Jacobson, Cobbetts, DLA Piper and Eversheds are all defending multimillion pound-lawsuits alleging negligence linked to mortgage fraud.

Eversheds is defending two separate suits filed in the High Court by the Nationwide Building Society for more than £20m and by the Bank of Ireland. Eversheds said it is an innocent victim in both cases.

An Eversheds spokeperson said: “Eversheds was clearly not involved in any wrongdoing but rather, like the Bank of Ireland, was an innocent party and a victim of fraud perpetrated by others.”