Partners in crime

More top lawyers are being rumbled for financial wrongdoing

Mark Gilbert
Mark Gilbert

In all lines of business there will be people who decide to abuse their position for personal gain, but when it is a lawyer doing so, it just feels that much more heinous – like hearing a vicar swear.

Between 2010 and 2011, an unusually high number of instances of partners being accused of theft from their firms made the press.

Last week (27 March) former Hogan Lovells litigator Christopher Grierson, probably the most high-profile perpetrator of the batch, pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud totalling £1.27m and was told by the judge that a prison term was “inevitable” when he comes to be sentenced on 3 May.

But what of the other lawyers whose alleged crimes came to light around the same time as Grierson’s?

Former Ince & Co partner Nathan (also known as Andrew) Iyer stole more than £3m from his firm and clients, and was struck off at a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal hearing on 7 February in what the tribunal called “as bad a case of fraud that the tribunal has ever had to deal with”. Iyer – who bankrupted himself trying to pay back the money – was interviewed under caution but is yet to be arrested or charged, although an investigation is ongoing according to a police spokesperson.

Similarly, Kennedys dismissed a partner following allegations that he had stolen money from a client account. Corporate and property finance partner Peter Lloyd-Cooper was accused of stealing around £1m, although The Lawyer now understands this could be as high as £2.5m. Again, police were understood to be investigating the matter, but – so far as The Lawyer could find out – no charges have been brought.

Finally, Addleshaw Goddard partner Mark Gilbert resigned in May 2011 after the firm found alleged discrepancies in his expenses and disbursements, and passed the matter to the SRA for investigation. Gilbert is now a consultant at Devonshires and is understood to deny any wrongdoing. No amount was mentioned in relation to the alleged discrepancies and the police are understood not to be involved.