Wednesday 16 January 2019

Legal firm facing probe over sale of lottery licence

Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

ONE of the State's biggest and most successful legal firms could face the prospect of being investigated by the Law Society after admitting to a conflict of interest arising from its involvement in the Government's sale of the National Lottery operating licence.

The Sunday Independent understands that A & L Goodbody has been informed by the Rehab Group that it is considering making a formal complaint to the Law Society.

The move comes after it was revealed that the blue-chip law firm had been advising the successful bidding consortium of UK lottery giant Camelot and An Post while simultaneously providing advice to Rehab in relation to a €1.5bn claim it intends to bring against the State in relation to the National Lottery.

While A & L Goodbody informed Rehab at a recent meeting that they had discussed the "merits" of their case for compensation with a "third party client", it emerged subsequently that the client in question was the Camelot and An Post consortium.

And while the law firm is understood to have assured Rehab at their meeting that they had not disclosed "full documents or information" in relation to Rehab's case with the representatives of Camelot and An Post, whom they described as their "third party client", the charitable group has been taking legal advice on the matter and, according to well-placed sources, is treating it with the "utmost seriousness".

Rehab is now understood to have put A & L Goodbody "on notice" that it is considering making a formal complaint to the Law Society in relation to its conduct.

A spokesman for A & L Goodbody said: "A&L Goodbody does not comment on any specific client matters and it would be inappropriate for us to comment on any matters subject to client confidentiality and other legal obligations."

And while a source familiar with the controversy insisted that certain details were "in some dispute" between the parties, the Sunday Independent has learned from other sources that A & L Goodbody has been in contact with Rehab seeking to resolve the issue.

The law firm continued to advise the successful bidding consortium of Camelot and An Post on the lottery licence auction up until four weeks ago.

A spokesman for Rehab declined to comment on the ongoing controversy other than to confirm that it was "considering all the options available" to it. When asked if those options included making a complaint to the Law Society, the spokesman said: "I want to reaffirm that Rehab is considering all the options available."

A spokesman for the Law Society declined to comment on the matter of A & L Goodbody's dispute with Rehab.

However, they did confirm that investigations into conflicts of interest are initiated in cases where complaints are received from clients who believe they have "suffered damage or loss as a consequence of their lawyers' actions".

The Law Society spokesman pointed out that a conflict of interest did "not necessarily indicate any adverse issues of professional conduct".

When asked what sanctions were available to the Law Society in conflict of interest cases, where it found a firm of solicitors had acted improperly, the spokesman said: "In cases where the Law Society finds that there has been a conflict of interest on the part of a firm of solicitors and the firm of solicitors did not act properly in the matter in a way which gave rise to professional misconduct, the Law Society could either impose a reprimand on the solicitors concerned or alternatively refer the matter to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for an enquiry dependent on the seriousness of the matter.

"The sanctions open to the tribunal and, in especially serious cases, to the High Court include censure, imposition of fines, imposition of conditions on the practising certificate and striking off the Roll of Solicitors.

"In a case where there is a finding of misconduct the sanction will depend on the seriousness of the misconduct and any aggravating or mitigating circumstances in the particular case."

Sunday Independent

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