A City solicitor has been suspended from the legal profession for a year, after police cautioned him for possession of cocaine, twice.
Matthew Podger was first cautioned by police for possession of cocaine in 2014, when he was an associate at Slaughter and May. On that occasion Podger self-reported the incident to the Magic Circle firm and told the SRA that it was a "one off and uncharacteristic lapse of judgment." He joined Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in 2017 and informed them about the caution.
However, Podger suffered another lapse of judgment in 2018, when police arrested him outside his London home and cautioned him again for possession of the rich man's aspirin. This time, Podger decided not to report his transgression to Cleary or the SRA.
Police spot Podger. How it might have looked.
And he might have got away with it, had it not been for a pesky anonymous letter in 2019 that alerted Cleary's head of HR about the incident. Cleary suspended Podger and he resigned from the firm shortly afterwards.
The matter was brought to the SRA. Podger told the regulator that he failed to self-report for the second caution as he was undergoing marital problems, and wanted to "maintain his livelihood and save his marriage."
In mitigation, the solicitor said that his personal life was under "significant stress" at the time - he was working long hours away from home, and the "deterioration of his marriage accelerated" after the caution.
Podger believed that had he told the firm, his wife would not have supported him through the process, and it would "almost certainly result in his losing his job and his career and so his marriage and home too." Which is ultimately what happened, the tribunal noted.
Podger admitted a lack of integrity, but denied dishonesty. The SRA dropped its initial allegation that the lawyer's failure to self-report had been dishonest.
Following a settlement agreement with the SRA, Podger was suspended from the legal profession for a year and order to pay costs of £1,800. He has also been banned from taking a position at a firm as a compliance officer.
A spokesman for Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton declined to comment.