Former Auckland lawyer Kenneth Yee has been struck off the roll of barristers and solicitors by the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal.
The tribunal found that Mr Yee had misused client funds in two ways. As a law firm employee he diverted $95,706 of fees to companies he was associated with. He also took $505,155 from the firm’s trust account into one of his companies in a series of unauthorised loans.
While the unauthorised loans were fully repaid either to the trust account or directly to the client, Mr Yee has not repaid the $95,706 of fees to his former firm.
The tribunal found that Mr Yee’s misconduct would clearly be regarded by lawyers of good standing as disgraceful or dishonourable, and it was also a wilful or reckless contravention of the trust accounting regulations.
New Zealand Law Society National Prosecutions Manager Mark Treleaven says the misuse of funds held by lawyers on behalf of their clients will always be totally unacceptable.
“A solicitor’s trust account is aptly named. The reputation of the legal profession stands on ensuring that a person can have absolute confidence that any such funds will be securely and safely held in trust by their lawyer,” he says.
“The New Zealand Law Society will not countenance any departures from the Conduct and Client Care Rules and Trust Account Regulations.”