CATRIONA MACFARLANE, 49, of Hasties Solicitors, Glasgow, has been found guilty by the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal of professional misconduct while covering up a scam by her mortgage broker husband, but allowed to continue working as a solicitor. Clients should proceed with caution and read the following :
The findings reported by the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT), said that Catriona Macfarlane’s actions had left her client in a vulnerable position and left them exposed to an unacceptable risk after it had been revealed she covered up her own husband's theft of £24,150 from a client who had approached Mrs Macfarlane to act for him in a house purchase deal.
SSDT heard lawyer covered up husband’s massive theft from client after cash was handed over for mortgage. In August 2006, Mr. A approached a mortgage broker, identified as Ideal Mortgages, to arrange a mortgage, giving Mr Nigel Macfarlane £24,150 to be used as a deposit on a property, and approached Catriona Macfarlane of Glasgow Law Firm Messrs Hasties to act for him in the purchase. The client, Mr A, was not aware at this time, that Catriona Macfarlane was married to his mortgage broker, Mr Nigel Macfarlane, nor did Macfarlane disclose this relationship to her client. Problems with the mortgage caused the house purchase to be delayed, which prompted the client to call his solicitor, Mrs Macfarlane, informing her he had handed £24,150 to the mortgage broker, who Mrs Macfarlane had still not disclosed was her husband. The SSDT judgement reported that Mrs Macfarlane's only reply to her client's telephone call was "She said only that she would call him back"
The Tribunal decision further reported : "She (Mrs Macfarlane) called back a short time later. She said that, having spoken to the broker, she was able to confirm that Mr A's money was safe and could be returned to him at any time. By this stage, she was aware that her husband had misappropriated Mr A's money. On 19 February, Mr Macfarlane came to Mr A's house and confessed … that he had spent his money. He promised to 'sort things out'."
“Mr. A and his wife were by this time suspicious. Although Mr. MacFarlane and the Respondent referred to each other respectively as “the broker” and “the solicitor” they shared the same surname. Mr. A and his wife confronted the Respondent on 19 February 2007. She confirmed that she and Mr. Macfarlane were married. She said that she “would sort things out”.
“On 26th February 2007 the Respondent advised Mr. A that she could no longer act for him and that he should seek separate representation. Mr. A was thereafter represented by new Solicitors. The transaction was completed in April 2007. All additional costs including penalty interest due to the sellers of the property were recovered from Nigel Macfarlane. The sums misappropriated by him were repaid in full."
The SSDT’s verdict : availabe for download in pdf, here: Law Society v Catriona Margaret Macfarlane
Solicitor Catriona Macfarlane, of Loganswell, Newton Mearns, Glasgow, and employed by Glasgow Law Firm Messrs Hasties Solicitors of Lynedoch Crescent, Glasgow, who was enrolled as a solicitor on 4 October 1982 was found guilty by the SSDT of Professional Misconduct in respect of her failure to disclose to her client the extent of her knowledge of her husband’s actings and her failure to timeously advise her client to seek separate independent advice and her failure to withdraw from acting for her client, all in breach of the Code of Conduct for Scottish Solicitors 2002.
The Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal issued punishment, censuring Mrs MacFarlane, and issued a fine of £2500 to be forfeit to Her Majesty and Direct in terms of Section 53 (5) of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980.
Further, Mrs Macfarlane was informed that for a period of 3 years, her practising certificate shall be subject to such restriction as will limit her to acting as a qualified assistant to and to being supervised by such employer as may be approved by the Council or the Practising Certificate Committee of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland. Mrs Macfarlane was also found liable in the expenses of the Complainers and of the Tribunal.
The Sunday Mail reported the scandal as follows :
MORTGAGE MAN STOLE MY £24K
A STUNNED home-buyer's £24,000 deposit was swiped by a mortgage broker whose lawyer wife then covered it up.
Jim Wilson gave the money to Nigel MacFarlane, of Ideal Mortgages, but the adviser stole it and spent it. It then took 19 days for Jim's solicitor Catriona MacFarlane, 49 to tell him that the thief was actually her husband. Despite the deception, MacFarlane was not struck off by the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal. Instead she was fined £2,500 for professional misconduct.
Jim, from East Kilbride, said : "She had her knuckles rapped. Yet for almost three weeks, she hid the fact her husband had taken our money." MacFarlane referred to her husband as "the broker: during the property purchase.
The SSDT found that MacFarlane's delay in revealing the truth deprived her client of independent legal advice. They also ruled that MacFarlane, a solicitor for 27 years, had acted "very irresponsibly" and that her actions were "contrary to the standards of conduct expected".
Suspicious Jim found out the truth when he confronted MacFarlane at her then employers, Glasgow firm Hasties. Jim said : "She put her head in her hands and admitted it. I had to take out an emergency loan." Nigel MacFarlane visited Jim at his home and vowed to repay the cash, which he did.
The Sunday Mail recently reported on another victim of the MacFarlanes, here :
Apr 4 2010 Sunday Mail
MUM Louise Hashim was shocked to discover she owned a £220,000 flat despite pulling out of the deal.
She told mortgage broker Nigel MacFarlane and his lawyer wife Catriona she'd changed her mind about buying the apartment in Admiral's Gate, Glasgow. So she was stunned when an £1110 mortgage payment came out of her bank account in 2005.
Louise contacted police when she discovered that despite saying she did not want to go ahead with the purchase the flat was bought in her name. Louise, 32, said: "The flat was repossessed and the debt is in my name so my credit record is ruined."
The loan was obtained by Nigel's employers, Ideal Mortgages, and Catriona, 49, was the solicitor. When Louise contacted the MacFarlanes, they claimed it was an error but she called in the police. She said: "The fiscal said that the evidence wasn't strong enough to proceed."
The Crown Office confirmed that no further proceedings would be taken over the matter.
Louise's ordeal echoes that of Jim Wilson, who gave a £24,000 deposit to Mr MacFarlane only for him to steal and spend it. It took 19 days for Jim's solicitor, Catriona MacFarlane, to reveal that the thief was her husband. She was fined £2500 for professional misconduct by the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal.
The MacFarlanes couldn't be reached for comment.
Here’s how the Herald Newspaper reported the scandal :
Published on 12 Nov 2009
A lawyer who kept quiet when her mortgage broker husband misappropriated a client’s cash has been fined £2500 for professional misconduct.
The independent Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal heard the man did not know that Catriona Macfarlane and Nigel Macfarlane were married. In conversations with the man, identified only as Mr A, she simply referred to her husband as “the broker”.
The tribunal ruled that Mrs Macfarlane, 49, of Loganswell, Newton Mearns, should have been more honest earlier, told the client to seek independent advice and withdrawn from acting.
The case was brought by the Law Society of Scotland, which regulates the professional conduct of the country’s solicitors.
It told the tribunal that in May 2006, Mr A wanted to buy a house and contacted Ideal Mortgages, where Mr Macfarlane worked. Between then and November that year, he handed over a total of £24,150 to be used as a deposit.
Soon afterwards, Mr A went to Hasties Solicitors in Glasgow’s Lynedoch Crescent where Mrs Macfarlane works. She acted for him during the purchase of a property and, when it emerged that there were problems with the loan, phoned her husband.
Mrs Macfarlane also got the settlement date put back a month to February 8, 2007, but, the day before the deal was due to be concluded, she phoned the seller to say that her client “had been badly let down by his broker” and was unable to complete the transaction.
By this time, Mrs Macfarlane knew that her husband had misappropriated the money he had received from Mr A, said the tribunal in its written ruling.
Two weeks later, Mr Macfarlane visited Mr A, confessed what he had done, and promised to sort things out.
By this time, Mr A had become suspicious because solicitor and broker shared the same surname and confronted, Mrs Macfarlane who admitted they were married.
The tribunal heard that a new solicitor took over acting for Mr A and the property purchase was successfully completed in April 2007. Mr Macfarlane paid back what he had taken and also paid the additional costs caused by the delay.
But they decided that Mrs Macfarlane, who has been a solicitor for 27 years, had acted “very irresponsibly” and that what she had done was “completely contrary to the standards of conduct expected of a solicitor”.
The tribunal also made an order that for the next three years Mrs Macfarlane could work only as an assistant, supervised by another solicitor.
Mrs Macfarlane did not contest the facts and was not present at the hearing.