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Solicitor struck off for failing to disclose information to lender

18 June 2019

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An experienced solicitor has been struck off after admitting dishonest conduct in relation to a conveyancing transaction which bore the hallmarks of potential mortgage fraud.

Clive Billington was a sole practitioner at Preston firm Dowson Billington and had more than 25 years’ experience at the time of the misconduct.

He admitted several breaches of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007 in relation to a leasehold sale dating back to 2008.

He had acted in the purchase of the leasehold property but failed to advise his lender client, Barclays Bank, that a sub-sale was involved and that there was a prior transaction.

There was also a conflict of interests: Billington had acted for both parties in the sub-sale but he did not disclose this fact to Barclays and failed to provide all necessary information, putting the interests of one client above those of the bank.

He also breached his undertaking to Barclays in not applying the full mortgage advance towards the property purchase.

His conduct only came to light in 2016 when Barclays unsuccessfully claimed against its insurer for losses which arose out of transactions in which Billington had acted. The insurer’s solicitors then reported the issue to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Billington admitted all the allegations, accepting that he should have told Barclays about the true structure of the transaction and that his dishonest conduct constituted misconduct of the most serious kind a solicitor can commit.

However, he said in mitigation that he genuinely believed Barclays knew of the structure of the transaction, and that he was under pressure to progress the matter.

Following the hearing on 9 April, the tribunal found his conduct to be “so serious that there was a need to protect the public and the reputation of the profession by removing the respondent’s ability to practise”.

A suspension was insufficient in light of the dishonesty found proved. Striking him off “would maintain public confidence in the profession and ensure proper standards of behaviour were upheld”. He apologised for his conduct and was struck off under the agreed outcomes procedure.

Billington has repaid a total of £225,000 to Barclays in full and final settlement and agreed to pay costs of £2,500.

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