The New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal has ordered that Auckland lawyer Frederick William Baker be struck off the roll of barristers and solicitors.
Mr Baker had pleaded guilty to a number of charges which related to the use of client funds from his firm’s trust account to pay debts owed by the firm. He apologised to the Tribunal and said he took full responsibility for his actions.
As well as misusing client funds he failed to maintain required trust account records. He also transferred funds from the firm’s Interest in Trust ledger when the funds were not available, causing the ledger to be overdrawn on a number of occasions.
From August 2013 until his offending was detected by a New Zealand Law Society inspector in September 2017, Mr Baker made a number of transfers from the trust account for which he processed false receipts.
“A law firm’s trust account must be a completely safe repository for the money of its clients. It must never be overdrawn or even be at the risk of being overdrawn,” New Zealand Law Society President Kathryn Beck says.
“No client lost money as a result of Mr Baker’s actions. However, the Law Society has strict rules for operation of trust accounts and all lawyers and law firms who operate one must submit monthly reports and keep relevant records.
“A lawyer who intentionally falsifies reports or receipts or does not comply with any of the trust accounting rules is committing a gross breach of trust. There is absolutely no room for that in the New Zealand legal profession.”