Former Addleshaws partner faces fresh SDT hearing as expenses case continues

The Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has kicked off a re-hearing of a case alleging former Addleshaw Goddard partner Mark Gilbert of discrepancies in expenses. 

The case against Gilbert was originally heard in January, when the Solicitors Regulation Authority asked the SDT to drop its claims of lack of integrity against the partner. However, the tribunal concluded that the evidence submitted was irrelevant to the application and rejected it (23 January 2014). 

The SDT assembled a new panel to hear the rest of the case in a two-day substantive hearing beginning today (24 November). 

The case centres on allegations of discrepancies in Gilbert’s expenses and disbursements while he was a partner at Addleshaws. It is understood that 322 bills have been called into question following an investigation by the firm in 2011. 

Gilbert is accused of causing or permitting bills to be raised to clients in which expenditure on taxi fares, meals and secretarial overtime were wrongly described as disbursements. 

Gilbert resigned from his equity partner post at Addleshaws in April 2011, following an internal investigation into the alleged discrepancies (30 May 2011). He joined 26-partner City-based firm Devonshires as a consultant the following month, and is currently employed in the same role by Thames Valley firm Gordons Solicitors. 

During the initial hearing, which took place in January 2014, 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 last November (5 November 2013). The SRA also gave permission for the SDT to amend its case against Peters and Wilson to drop the allegation of lack of integrity relating to disbursements last year. 

Malek argued in January that Gilbert was under intense pressure, working 16 hours a day six 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 Addleshaws, 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. 

Addleshaws said it 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. 

The SDT is being represented in the continuing matter by Farrar’s Building’s Geoffrey Williams QC.