Chairman's Comment On SRA v Locke Lord (UK) LLP
Andrew Spooner, the Chairman of the Division which sat on the case of Solicitors Regulation Authority v Locke Lord (UK) LLP, issued the following comment on the decision on 10 November 2017:
“As Chairman of the Division that heard this case, I am taking the highly unusual step of explaining the background to our decision which has resulted in some erroneous coverage in the media which occurred before the publication of the Tribunal’s Judgment.
For the public and the profession to have confidence in its regulators, it is essential that they act accurately and with integrity. This extends to comments / observations that they may wish to make in the media.
Regrettably, it appears in this case that inaccurate and misleading quotations emanating from the SRA and / or one of its Executive Directors, Mr David Middleton, have been made. None of these comments were seen or approved by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal before their release. If this had been done, any inaccuracies could have been noted and corrected.
This case was first considered by a Division of this Tribunal on 20 October 2017. That Division was chaired by me, sitting with two other Members, Ms Carolyn Evans and Mr Robert Slack. That Division required the parties to provide additional information before it could properly consider the sanction of a fine of £250,000 plus costs of £25,000 and VAT that had been proposed in the Agreed Outcome by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Second Respondent, Locke Lord (UK) LLP.
The Division ordered that this information should be provided and a hearing of 3 hours was fixed to consider this information together with any submissions that the parties wished to make. That hearing took place on 6 November 2017. The Division on that date comprised Mr Paul Lewis, Mr Robert Slack and was again chaired by me.
Senior representatives of both parties (including Mr Middleton) attended that hearing with their legal advisers.
After carefully considering the information and hearing submissions on behalf of both parties, the Division decided that ‘The proposed fine of £250,000 did not reflect the seriousness of the matter’. As a result, the Agreed Outcome that had been proposed by the parties was refused by the Division.
Both parties then confirmed that they wished the Division to give them an indication of what level of fine it considered appropriate.
The Division indicated that in order to reflect the very serious set of circumstances, the appropriate fine was £500,000 – double the fine that had been proposed by the SRA and the Second Respondent.
After a short adjournment, both parties made a joint application for an Agreed Outcome in the form attached to the Judgment with a penalty of £500,000 plus costs of £25,000 and VAT.
In reaching this decision the Tribunal, as it always does, acted independently after carefully considering the merits of the case. The full Judgment and Agreed Outcome is attached to this note.”