Russell-Cooke's regulation team acted in disciplinary proceedings brought by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) against four solicitors and two non-regulated individuals involved in the now defunct law firm, Ashton Fox Solicitors Limited. The firm unlawfully used and dissipated away over £40 million of monies it received from the Axiom Litigation Finance Fund based in the Cayman Islands, which is now in administration, following widely publicised allegations of fraud. The case was the biggest yet brought by the SRA involving the Axiom fund.
The Axiom monies should have been used to fund high-volume litigation cases, but instead, the firm was used as a vehicle to extract vast sums of money for the personal benefit of the solicitors and Axiom's founder, Tim Schools. Mr Schools was struck off in separate disciplinary proceedings and has also been the subject of civil proceedings brought in the Cayman Islands and in London by Axiom's Receivers, Grant Thornton. He is now being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office.
The Axiom fund received over £100 million from investors who were persuaded to invest in group action litigation through a series of fraudulent misrepresentations in various offering memoranda.
At the conclusion of the disciplinary hearing the four solicitors were found to be dishonest and were struck off and ordered to pay substantial costs.
The two non-solicitors who were involved in the firm's management and who controlled the firm's finances were also found to be dishonest and were made the subject of orders preventing them from working in other law firms or to have any interest in a recognised body, without the SRA's permission. They received fines totalling £200,000 and £50,000 respectively and were ordered to pay substantial costs. The £200,000 fine is a record fine imposed against a non-solicitor in such disciplinary proceedings, reflecting the seriousness of the Tribunal’s findings.
The proceedings have been the subject of media interest including in the Law Society Gazette and Legal Futures.
The Russell-Cooke team was led by partner, Paolo Sidoli.
Over the past 5 years John Gould, Paolo Sidoli, Michael Stacey and Andrew Pavlovic of our Regulation team have been engaged in 10 separate prosecutions before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and a number of high profile reported applications and appeals in the High Court and Court of Appeal involving more than 16 solicitors who improperly received monies from the Axiom fund, including the recent landmark Court of Appeal decision of SRA v Wingate & Evans which has reset the definition of lack of integrity.