Thompsons escapes SDT rap in miner claims scandal

Thompsons Solicitors has escaped referral to the Solicitors Disciplinary ­Tribunal (SDT) despite chief executive Stephen Cavalier being ’severely reprimanded’ by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) over the firm’s part in the cash for miners’ claims scandal.

Thompsons paid £10.9m from the settlements it secured for miner clients to unions as ’administrative charges’ when it procured cases under the Claims Handling Agreements (CHA) scheme set up by the Department of Trade and Industry in 1999.

The SRA said the firm had compromised its duty to act in the best interests of clients because until February 2005 it failed to advise claimants that they were under no duty to instruct Thompsons. However, the regulator found that it was not in the public interest for the six partners involved to appear before the SDT.

Following complaints to the firm, in 2005 and 2006 Thompsons contacted clients to give them the opportunity to withdraw from the CHA scheme. It refunded a total of £3.6m to 6,304 clients.
In total Thompsons was referred 23,500 miners’ cases from NUM Durham, the Durham Colliery Mechanics Trust and NUM South West.

The regulatory settlement names six partners involved in the scheme, including executive chair Geoff Shields, head of miners’ claims Anthony Patterson and head of the firm’s Newcastle office Robert Wood. Thompsons has been ordered to pay the SRA costs of £87,890.

A statement from ­Cavalier said: “Despite […] believing at the time that our approach was consistent with professional standards, we’ve accepted that our advice in the early period of the claims was deficient.

“We took substantial steps to mitigate our conduct, but as chief executive I’ve accepted responsibility on behalf of the firm for those deficiencies.”