The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal has censured Auckland barrister and solicitor David John Graeme Cox after finding him guilty of one charge of unsatisfactory conduct.
The Tribunal dismissed an alternative charge of negligence or incompetence and a further alternative charge of misconduct. As well as the censure, the Tribunal ordered Mr Cox to pay a fine of $7,500, to pay the New Zealand Law Society $19,791.96 and to reimburse hearing costs of $2,984. An application for name suppression was dismissed.
Mr Cox was censured for representing to another practitioner that the full proceeds of the sale of the management rights of a hotel would be paid to a bank in reduction of its debt. He failed to advise the practitioner that there would be a significant reduction in the amount eventually paid in circumstances where he had an obligation to do so.
This failure compromised the other practitioner's ability to authorise a partial release of a client's general security agreement and his practice benefitted by $39,120.92 as a result.
In response to the charge Mr Cox accepted that his conduct relating to the other practitioner was unsatisfactory.
The Tribunal concluded that on balance Mr Cox's actions were an oversight as opposed to intentional failure.
The Tribunal declined an application for name suppression deciding that it did not override principles of public interest and open justice.
The New Zealand Law Society says lawyers must respect other practitioners and be careful to provide information to them, which can be relied on.
"This decision underlines the importance of maintaining proper standards of professionalism in a lawyer's dealings. Lawyers must ensure that representations they make to others are accurate and corrected if later found to be erroneous," New Zealand Law Society National Prosecutions Manager Mark Treleaven says.