The culprit made multiple breaches and failed to act when concerns were raised by third party insurers and the Motor Insurers Bureau
A personal injury solicitor has been struck off for breaching several principles of the Solicitors Regulation Authority code of conduct.
Farooq Rafiq, a partner at law firm Broadway Solicitors, was accused of putting his relationship with claims management companies (CMCs) ahead of clients’ best interests and subsequently failing to act in an appropriate manner when issues were raised by third-party insurers and the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB).
He also allowed the firm to act for clients where there were conflicts of interest, and where CMCs were referring clients to the firm he did not consider the clients best interests.
According to the SRA, Rafiq “caused or allowed the firm to send claims notification forms in personal injury claims without the knowledge of the named client and without proper grounds for signing the statement of truth.
“The tribunal considered that the totality of the respondent’s conduct was such that allowing the respondent’s name to remain on the roll would have an adverse effect on public confidence in the reputation of the profession.”
He was ordered to pay agreed costs of £55,000.
It follows Rafiq’s three convictions of assault by beating last September– one which was committed while he was on bail for the other two.
Although these assaults were at the “lower end of the scale” although in a domestic setting with vulnerable victims, the third one which was “particularly serious” had been committed while Rafiq was on bail for the first two.
The Solicitor’s Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) heard that Rafiq qualified in 2009, he was a partner at Broadway Solicitors in Oldham prior to it being incorporated as Broadway Legal in 2016 where he became the sole director.
The SRA shut the firm down in November 2018.
Last year, shortly before this intervention Fariq also made 21 staff redundant by text message breaching employment law.
The firm also outsourced work to Nottingham-based Alpha UK Business Services.
The firm’s compliance advisor was involved in creating the agreement between the firm and Alpha.
Although Rafiq admitted that he was not aware that Alpha was handling some of his work from Pakistan and did not therefore ensure that there was adequate protection of client confidentiality.
But Fariq did not act on a compliance adviser’s recommendation to end the relationship despite the risk being made clear to him.
In some instances, Broadway also secured second medical reports and medical treatments for its clients solely from CMCs on which the firm was “financially dependent,” and from a firm that shared a director with Alpha.
Further to this he failed to monitor the firm’s accounts leading to a cash shortage on a client account, a £92,000 credit on an office account and the firm held residual balances on 800 client matters totalling £242,000.
Although several allegations were dropped ahead of the tribunal, leaving the rest agreed by the SRA and Rafiq. This included that Broadway occasionally sent claims notification forms in road traffic claims only for it to emerge later that the supposed client had never even heard of the firm.
In December 2015, the firm received several letters from third party insurers and the MIB raising concerns about the “veracity of certain claims submitted” by the firm.
Fariq was aware of “such concerns” but failed to take action, although he admitted to not dealing with the MIB’s worries “precisely and robustly”.
The SDT said: “It was plain from the admitted and accepted fact that the respondent was aware of the concerns.
“His failure to act n serious concerns raised by multiple third parties amounted to a lack of integrity.”
Broadway was “financially dependent on receiving clients from claims management companies (CMCs) – which accounted for 97% of the firm’s clients. It did not advise clients that paying fees to CMCs might not be in their best interests.
“In contrast, it was in the firm’s interests that the client would pay a fee to the CMC, since the firm had a financial interest in maintaining its flow of clients from CMCs,” the tribunal was told.
However, while the SRA said that the misconduct was down to Rafiq’s “mistaken but genuine belief, that it would be improper for him to advise on the contracts they had entered” given that he did business with CMCs.
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