It has been reported that the former principal solicitor at Asons Solicitors, Kamran Akram, will be appearing before a disciplinary tribunal, over allegations that the claimant firm acted in cases where there had been a conflict of interest and also engaged in the act of inflating legal fees and paying illegal referral fees.[i]
The SRA, in March of 2017, intervened into Asons Solicitor, which reported £2.1 million losses in the year ending 31 May 2016. We reported on this in edition 179 of BC Disease News (here). Coops Law, an offshoot of Asons created before the SRA intervention, was closed down by the regulator 3 months hence. We reported this in issue 190 (here), on the grounds that the SRA had ‘reason to suspect dishonesty on the part of Irfan Kahn Akram in connection with Coops Law Ltd’s business’.
The ex-principal, who was admitted in 2005, will provide answers to six allegations at the tribunal, namely that he:
- ‘Caused or permitted the presentation of applications for costs in PI claims which systematically misrepresented the grade of relevant fee earners so as to increase the level of recoverable costs.
- Caused or permitted the presentation of claims for special damages which contained particulars that were false in that the event, loss or treatment alleged to have given rise to the special damages claim had not occurred or did not exist.
- Caused or permitted Asons to act in circumstances giving rise to a conflict of interest between Asons and its clients, specifically in relation to the resolution of personal injury claims.
- Provided misleading information to the court and/or the SRA in relation to the false and inflated claims for costs and special damages presented on behalf of clients of Asons.
- Caused or permitted payments of prohibited referral fees.
- Failed to run his practice or carry out his role as sole principal, COLP and COFA of Asons effectively and in accordance with proper governance and sound financial and risk management principles’.[ii]
The allegation referring to the systematic exaggeration of legal costs surrounded a dispute over 65 AXA personal injury files, which were settled between September 2013 and December 2014, where ‘Asons overstated the qualifications and experience of its legal staff to falsely inflate the bills’. This led to the repayment of over £100,000. We discussed this in further detail in edition 173 (here).
The firm, set up in 2008, had also been the beneficiary of a controversial £300,000 grant from Bolton Council in 2016. This was subsequently repaid, following a notice of termination.
The tribunal hearing has not yet been allocated, but we will report on the decision of the SDT in due course.
[i] Neil Rose, ‘Asons boss set for tribunal on charges including illegal referral fees and inflated costs’ (18 February 2018 Legal Futures) <https://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/asons-boss-set-tribunal-charges-including-illegal-referral-fees-inflated-costs> accessed 22 February 2018.
[ii] Max Walters, ‘Ex Asons solicitor to face SDT charges’ (16 February 2018 Law Gazette) <https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/ex-asons-solicitor-to-face-sdt-charges/5064852.article> accessed 22 February 2018.