Tuesday 12 December 2017

Lawyer should be 'struck off and fined €1.43m'

Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

THE Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has recommended that a solicitor be struck off, ordered to pay €1.43m and files relating to two complaints against him to be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The SDT, an independent body which investigates solicitor's misconduct, made the recommendations following an investigation by the Law Society into solicitor Joseph (Joe) Traynor, practising as Traynor Company solicitors, Clanbrassil Street, Dundalk, Co Louth.

The complaints against Mr Traynor relate to a failure to perform legal undertakings which, it has been claimed, has exposed at least two other colleagues with whom he dealt with to professional negligence claims.

The €1.4m sanction recommended against Mr Traynor exceeds a €1m fine the SDT urged the High Court to adopt after it investigated rogue solicitor Thomas Byrne who was struck off the solicitors roll in 2008. Earlier this week Mr Traynor was cited in separate proceedings before the High Court in which ACC Bank is suing another Dundalk-based solicitor for €7m over his alleged failure to ensure the bank had good security for a loan to a property developer.

In those proceedings it is claimed by solicitor Brian Johnson, who acted for the bank, that Mr Traynor failed to honour undertakings to ensure the bank had good security for loans it issued to developer Francis Tiernan, a client of Mr Traynor.

Last July Mr Traynor's practising certificate was suspended by the High Court following accusations that he had misallocated funds in his client account. Following an application by the Law Society Mr Traynor's personal accounts in the firm were frozen, subject to the payment out of €2,000 a week in living expenses.

Last week's disciplinary tribunal's recommendations, which will now be brought before the new President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, comes as the courts are witnessing a surge in professional negligence claims against solicitors for failing to comply with legal undertakings.

Shortly before Christmas, scores of cases in which solicitors are being sued for allegedly dishonouring undertakings to ensure financial institutions have good security for loans were lodged with the High Court.

The claims against solicitors include allegations that they failed to properly investigate and secure legal title and mortgages/first legal charges for property deals during the boom and failing to advance good security for banks and clients.

The increase in claims follows a review by banks and other financial institutions into the security of their loans and legal title raised by way of legal undertakings, in particular fears that undertakings given to stamp and register deeds were not carried out.

Crisis

There are now fears that the Solicitors Mutual Defence Fund (SMDF), the main insurance body for the country's 3,500 solicitors, will not be able to cope with a flood of claims relating to failure to perform legal undertakings. Last December, the SMDF initiated an €8m lawsuit against Bloxham stockbrokers, allegedly resulting from negligent advice from the firm.

The SMDF claims Bloxham advised it to invest in a bond which fell 97pc in value, thereby affecting its ability to indemnify lawyers. The legal undertakings crisis first emerged when the activities of rogue solicitors Michael Lynn and Thomas Byrne were exposed three years ago.

Irish Independent

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