RollOnFriday can reveal that the Senior Partner of Child & Child, who was fined £45,000 by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, has left the firm. And that the firm has gone bust and been bought up by five partners and a private equity investor.
The Westminster private client firm was hugely embarrassed when Khalid Sharif's lax approach to vetting clients was exposed in the Panama Papers scandal. Child & Child had undertaken work for the daughters of Azerbaijan's president, whose regime is suspected of being hugely corrupt. It wrongly stated in leaked records held by Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca that the women had no political connections. Sharif's due diligence failings, the SDT ruled in January, "led to a risk of large amounts of money being laundered".
Sharif has since left the firm and it has now been placed into administration, facilitating a management buyout.
But only one of those details has been promoted by the firm. On 1 July, its Twitter account announced that there was "Exciting news for Child & Child today". The exciting news wasn't the exit of its boss, however, or the firm's administration three days earlier, but the fact that "five of our Partners have taken over ownership of the firm". As has a private equity investor, Omni Captial, which has bought 20% of the firm's equity.
...PS we weren't a going concern for a tiny amount of time.
"Talking on the change of ownership", continued the firm on its website, "new equity partner Estelle Tague said, 'This is an exciting time for our clients'".
It certainly is, although they will have to hunt for any mention of administration on the site, or for the link to the page of FAQs which answers boring questions like, "What will happen to my file?", "Can I instruct another solicitor?" and "What will happen to any client money owed to me?"
Keep walking...keep walking...you'll see it soon.
It's even less exciting for creditors, who are told, "You should not hesitate to contact the dedicated Joint Administrators team at Begbies Traynor".
A source close to the firm, which is now 'Allium Law Limited trading as Child & Child', said that it was only put into administration to crystallise its liabilities, in order to give the buyers certainty. The same argument was advanced in respect of Ince earlier this year after it was placed into a pre-pack administration and purchased by Gordon Dadds. While cynics might suggest that it actually represents a neat way to bilk creditors, a source close to Child & Child said that some unsecured creditors had already been repaid.