Conveyancer fined £7,500 after ‘sloppy’ handling of transaction

Court, courtroom, law.

Conveyancer fined £7,500 after ‘sloppy’ handling of transaction

A solicitor has been fined £7,500 after overlooking indicators of potential money laundering when doing business with a family he had been instructed by previously.

Accepting that he had been ‘sloppy’, Daniel Mun Kin Tang ‘failed to distinguish between the personal and professional’ during a conveyance which had involved several investors. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal expressly stated that although the transaction had a ‘number of dubious features’, it was not dubious in itself.

Tang was born in 1980 and qualified in 2006, becoming a partner with Wembley firm Christopher Mathew Solicitors. Acting for a company regarding the purchase of three flats, he also arranged an investment agreement to go towards the transaction. However, when Tang sought to register a charge on the property, he failed to seek the consent of one the involved parties. Tang registered one of the owners as a sole lender, despite the presence of a written agreement stating that this would not occur.

Dealing with the family previously, Tang had originally been instructed by SK regarding an auctioned property in 2012. This was to be bought by TP – a company owned by SK’s friend as well as his nephew.

£150,000 of the purchase money was funded by SK’s friend, Ms FA. Having received a loan from his father, the nephew – HD – contributed the same amount. As Ms FA would be channelling the fund for the purchase via SK, Tang was also requested by SK to create an investor agreement for her.

Stating that he had not acted in a way correspondent with the level of trust placed in both him and legal service provision, the tribunal said that Tang ‘had a duty to assess each case on its individual circumstances’. Although having dealt with the family on a previous occasion, his enquiries were found to have been ‘superficial’.

In order to protect both himself and the client in the event of a dubious transaction, ‘the respondent was required to undertake due diligence in respect of every person involved’ the tribunal stressed.

As Tang had also failed to obtain the consent of FA when naming HD as the lender, the SDT found that public trust had been undermined, stating that: ‘If an agreement required consent to a charge being registered the public would not expect a solicitor to not obtain the relevant consent’.

Despite allowing SK to have charge of the purchase, the tribunal was unable to find that Tang has jeopardised his own independence. This was as Tang provided evidence indicating that HD had allowed SK to give instructions to him.

However, the tribunal stated that given his level of experience, the way Tang had handled the transaction was not adequate and had put the CQS accredited firm at risk.

‘For a solicitor with six years’ post-qualification experience at the time, who was a relatively experienced conveyancer, to conduct a file in this way was to place himself, the reputation of the firm, and the reputation of the profession at risk and was not adequate.

‘The lack of file was not acceptable. The respondent appeared to have fallen into a trap where he failed to distinguish between the personal and professional when he was doing business with a family with whom he was acquainted.’

Tang also accepted the allegation that he should have advised Ms FA to seek independent legal advice.

However, the SDT did not find that unfair advantage had been taken of Ms FA, stating that she has before represented herself in transactions and was a qualified lawyer.

The SDT noted that since the transaction occurred, ‘rigorous conveyancing compliance checks and client care procedures’ had been put in place by Christopher Mathew.

The tribunal also acknowledged that Tang ‘sincerely regretted his failures’, expressed during mitigation, as well as accepting that his six-years’ post-qualification experience meant that he was ‘relatively inexperienced’.

As his misconduct stemmed from a single transaction and there had been no planning or financial gain, Tang was fined £7,500. However, he was also ordered to pay the full SRA costs, estimated to be over £32,000.

 

Georgia Owen

Georgia is the Content Executive and will be your primary contact when submitting your latest news. While studying for an LLB at the University of Liverpool, Georgia gained experience working within retail, as well as social media management. She later went on to work for a local newspaper, before starting at Today’s Conveyancer.

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