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      Richard Anthony Pollins

      General Legal advice

      1 stars

      18/11/11 - Reviewed by Solicitors Regulation Authority

      Regulatory settlement agreement

      1. Mr R A Pollins, member of DMH Stallard LLP, formerly a partner with DMH Stallard and Mr M Mulcare, formerly a salaried partner between 2001 and 2003 with DMH Stallard, agree to the following outcome of the investigation into their professional conduct under reference REG/38137-2008.
      Background

      2. On 13 June 2006 the SRA commenced an inspection of the firm. As a result of the report prepared by the Investigation Officer and further correspondence with the firm, the following was established:

      2.1 Prior to March 2004 the firm paid fees of £90 plus VAT and £150 plus VAT to two referrers of Miners Compensation cases, Your Claim ("YC") and Miners Welfare Compensation Agency ("MWCA").
      2.2 The firm's costs for Miners Compensation cases were paid for by the DTI. In addition, the firm charged a success fee of 15% of the compensation paid to clients in successful cases. The firm billed a total of £309,000 in relation to successful cases.
      2.3 That the firm received contingency fees in Miners Compensation proceedings which were deemed to be contentious by virtue of a High Court Order of 1 October 1998.

      3. The partners stated that as at September 2010 out of the 470 matters where monies were deducted from clients, 455 clients had been contacted and the sums deducted from their compensation as success fees refunded.
      Submission to Findings

      4. Mr Pollins, and Mr Mulcare agree to the following findings being made by the SRA:

      4.1 That they have breached:
      The Solicitors Introduction and Referral Code 1990 in relation to the payment of referral fees.
      Rule 1(c), (d) and Rule 15 of the Solicitors Practice Rules 1990 by charging a success fee of 15% of compensation received in successful cases.
      Rule 8 of the Solicitors Practice Rules 1990 by charging contingency fees in cases which were, by virtue of an order of the High Court dated 1 October 1998, deemed to be contentious.

      5. The overall circumstances of the manner in which the miners compensation matters were handled by the firm in relation to the payment of referral fees and charging of contingency fees may justify a referral to the SDT. The charging of success fees in successful cases had a clear impact on clients. However, it is likely that the Tribunal would not restrict the partners' ability to practise, and an outcome that involves the restitution of money to the clients from whom contingency fees were deducted, and the acceptance of the findings set out at paragraph 4 above is proportionate in the circumstances.

      6. Mr R Pollins, being the equity partner responsible for setting up and running the miners compensation cases and negotiating with MWCA and YC, and Mr Mulcare, being the salaried partner working with the miners compensation team at DMH Stallard, are reprimanded.
      Mitigation

      7. Mr Pollins and Mr Mulcare state that the conduct of claims on behalf of mineworkers made up only a small proportion of the firm's total matters and the firm did not have a dedicated department for such claims.

      8. Mr Pollins and Mr Mulcare honestly believed that the payments to YC and MWCA were for investigation work undertaken and were not referral fees.

      9. Mr Pollins and Mr Mulcare honestly and reasonably formed the view in their professional opinion, that the mineworkers claims were non-contentious business and that it was therefore permissible to charge success fees; they now accept in the light of the Orders of the High Court, that this assessment was wrong in law.

      10. Mr Pollins and Mr Mulcare, in their professional judgment, placed reliance on the fact that the agreement with MWCA was drawn up by a large and reputable firm of solicitors, whom they reasonably assumed would not have drawn up a document containing any provisions which were, or might be, unlawful.

      11. Mr Pollins and Mr Mulcare state that the firm has undertaken a programme of compensating clients for the sums deducted and had fully compensated all those clients whom the firm had been able to trace.
      Regulatory Outcome

      12. Mr Pollins who remains a member at DMH Stallard LLP, undertakes that he will use all reasonable endeavours to:

      12.1 Within one month of the date of this agreement provide details of the remaining clients to whom refunds of contingency fees are due along with full details of all efforts made to trace those clients or their families;
      12.2 recompense those clients once they identify themselves, or are located by the firm.

      13. Mr Pollins and Mr Mulcare agree to pay the costs of the investigation of the SRA, these being £3375.00

      14. Mr Pollins and Mr Mulcare agree that this outcome may be published by the SRA and that it may also be disclosed to any person upon request or otherwise.

      15. Mr Pollins and Mr Mulcare agree that they will not act in any way inconsistent with this agreement such as, denying the misconduct found in paragraph 4 above.

      16. If the undertaking referred to in paragraph 12 above is not complied with within the time limit stated or if either of Mr Pollins or Mr Mulcare act in any way inconsistent with the agreement all issues may be referred for consideration of a referral of the non compliant partners' conduct to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal on the original facts and allegations and also on the basis that such failure to comply may also constitute a breach of Rules 1(a) and (d) of the Solicitors Practice Rules 1990.

      17. The date of this agreement is 2011.

      Mr R A Pollins Mr M Mulcare

      Carol Westrop
      Head of Legal Policy
      Solicitors Regulation Authority
      More info on this finding: http://www.sra.org.uk/consumers/solicitor-check/016761.article?Decision-1

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