Solicitor gets three year break for multiple conflict findings

In Legal Services Commissioner v DJMH [2008] VCAT 2301, Deputy President McNamara’s tribunal ordered the solicitor not to practice before 1 July 2011 for multiple findings of acting in the face of a conflict.  It is unfortunate that the reasons for decision do not allow an understanding of what was alleged.  It had something to do with conflicts of duties in lending transactions described as ‘very serious indeed’.  The gravamen of the charges, according to the Deputy President was that the solicitor:

‘failed … to protect the interest of two of his clients, Mr & Mrs Thompson, with respect to a property investment which they had made by way of second mortgage advance to a builder.  The ultimate result of this was that acting upon the assurance of a finance broker and consultant, Mr Veljkovic, the practitioner took steps which converted the situation of the Thompsons from secured second mortgage creditors of the builder to unsecured creditors of a newly minted investment company.’

Nevertheless, mid-way through a long cross-examination by an experienced professional discipline man, Martin Randall, the solicitor decided to cut a deal, and admitted 2 counts of common law misconduct, and one of unsatsifactory professional conduct.  He had entered into a part X arrangement, there had already been substantial civil litigation arising out of the same transactions as were in issue in the disciplinary prosecution resulting in a large and potentially uninsured judgment, and the solicitor had not worked as a solicitor since 2004, leaving him in a parlous financial position.  Those circumstances suggested that no fine was appropriate for this 62 year old solicitor with 34 years’ experience.

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