New Zealand Law Society - Lawyers Complaints Service: Struck off for misappropriation

Lawyers Complaints Service: Struck off for misappropriation

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Bruce Harvey Reid of Auckland has been struck off by the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal after he admitted misappropriating almost quarter of a million dollars.

In [2016] NZLCDT 11 Mr Reid admitted two charges of misconduct and one charge of unsatisfactory conduct. The Tribunal had made an interim suspension order against him on 5 February 2016 (see LawTalk 882, 26 February 2016, p 39).

The first charge of misconduct related to Mr Reid taking over $41,000 for his own personal use without recording that in his reporting statement to his client.

The second charge of misconduct involved him misappropriating $145,836.01 following his appointment as an executor of an estate. Mr Reid disguised the misappropriations by recording false descriptions in the estate’s ledger.

The charge of unsatisfactory conduct also involved misappropriation. Mr Reid obtained a handwritten authority signed by himself and his co-executor authorising “temporary advances from time to time on the basis that they will be repaid”.

The co-executor was not advised to obtain legal advice before signing the authority. A woman of advanced years, she was not legally represented at the time of signing the authority.

Mr Reid made 19 advances totalling $67,000 from the estate’s trust account to himself without issuing any statements detailing the advances.

Mr Reid “misappropriated a total of $249,036.01, which he said was used to meet the day-to-day living expenses of himself and his partner and also to cover personal debts,” the Tribunal noted.

Mr Reid appeared at the hearing and apologised to the profession, his former clients, the public and the Tribunal for his conduct.

He told the Tribunal that he intended to repay in full the monies that he had misappropriated.

In addition to the striking off order, the Tribunal ordered Mr Reid to pay $75,000 compensation, being $25,000 in respect of each charge. [$25,000 is the maximum compensation that can be ordered on a charge.]

He was also ordered to pay the Law Society its costs of $8,402.48 and $1,872 Tribunal costs.

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