morph

A handy guide.


The Metamorph law group's turbulent restructuring descended into chaos this week as the company, which owns a network of firms, failed to prevent the court appointment of an official receiver for parts of its business, resulting in staff being made immediately redundant, and prompting disbelief amongst employees that the SRA has not stepped in.

Creditors, understood to be HMRC and an estate agents, had issued winding up petitions in respect of Metamorph subsidiaries BPL Solicitors and MLL Limited, which operates Linder Myers, SLC Solicitors, and Donnelly & Elliot Solicitors.

Metamorph's board planned to liquidate the two companies after transferring their assets to Knowles Benning, a Bedfordshire firm it acquired in the summer. Last Friday the Metamorph board told staff in an email leaked to RollOnFriday that it was making "good progress" with the restructuring, and on Monday MLL and BPL staff moved across via TUPE.

However, this week staff were not paid and on Wednesday the board revealed that "unexpectedly the Official Receiver was appointed as the liquidator of MLL Limited today", which "has caused a temporary slowing of our transfer arrangements of funds across to Knowles Benning to enable us to pay your salaries".

Multiple sources said the official receiver was also appointed in respect of Metamorph Group Services Limited, which manages the support functions for several of the group's firms. "None of the Metamorph Group Services staff had been TUPE'd across" said a source. As a result, "HR, payroll, client account staff, accounting staff - everyone's been made redundant". Another employee said it meant "those who transferred from MLL to Knowles Benning have no HR, no compliance, no finance teams". Staff also found themselves unable to get into offices, which had been locked shut.

An employee at another impacted Metamorph company said that some Metamorph Group Services staff had been offered their positions back, along with their November paycheck as an inducement not to walk away. The emergency rehiring strategy meant that "we do technically have an accounts team again", said an insider, although "we don't actually have an up-and-running client account", which they said raised questions about compliance.

A source in a senior role said, "We have money in client account that we can't process. We can't make court payments because none of our accounts team are there".  Another lawyer said, "If we were to settle a PI claim, how would we be able to get the client their settlement? We don't have access to the account." 

Staff reacted with disbelief to the suggestion that there had been no compromise to clients. "There's no compromise when your court account is frozen, when your franking machines are frozen, when you can't move client money, you can't invoice, you've got no accounts team? How is it the case that clients aren't compromised?"

There was incomprehension as to why the regulator had not stepped in. "We don't understand it", said one lawyer. "How the SRA are not involved is beyond me. I can't wrap my head around it", said another source.

An SRA spokesperson said, "All firms have an obligation to close in an orderly way as laid out in our guidance. If we become aware that a firm is not adhering to our rules, then we can step in".

The board has told staff it now intends to replace the official receiver with the group's preferred liquidator "who has already been appointed to the other companies in the restructure". In the meantime, it told staff, "it is our intention to get your salary to you before the end of the week, possibly in tranches so that everyone gets at least something as soon as possible". One lawyer told RollOnFriday they were sceptical of Metamorph's "intention" to pay "in dribs and drabs". 

The accounts of many of the companies in the group are five months overdue and employees told RollOnFriday that Metamorph's inability to pay their wages sat oddly with its claim that an unidentified funder had agreed to step in at Knowles Benning. "We were told we were going to be paid thanks to this amazing new investor in Knowles Benning", said a lawyer: "It doesn't add up". Another said that "people are having to borrow money off other people to pay their mortgage. It's disgraceful".

Metamorph's latest difficulties take place against the background of a restructuring which will shrink its business. In an email to staff sent prior to the appointment of the official receiver, Metamorph confirmed that it would be shedding MLL, BPL and Metamorph Group Services employees as part of the process, telling them that, "Sadly, it is not going to be possible to offer roles to everyone, as going forward we will have a much smaller business with fewer offices", and that it will close in York, Wakefield, Lytham, and Telford.

Before the receiver's appointment threw a spanner in the works, the board described how several of Metamorph's remaining legal brands, including Beeton Edwards, Browns, Knight Polson and Parrott and Coales, will 'hive up' into Knowles Benning on 31 December, while several offices will close.

Questions have been raised by Metamorph staff as to founder Tony Stockdale's future role. Despite giving the impression he would be stepping back from the leadership of the company when he confirmed he was surrendering the CEO post, he was appointed as a director of Knowles Benning in July. And although he was terminated as a director of Metamorph's parent company, Metamorph Group Limited, on 1 November, he was reappointed as a director three weeks later. 

Meanwhile, another Metamorph company, Quality Solicitors, has been bought out by its management team, led by Victoria Browning, a former secretary who is now QS's Network & Partnership Operations Director, and Paul Rawson, a non-executive director of QS who also served as Metamorph's marketing director.

The Metamorph board assured staff, somewhat confusingly, that "all Metamorph offices are joining QS as full members" in an email passed to ROF. "Does that mean we are all part of Quality Solicitors? We don't know", said a Metamorph lawyer. ROF put that question and others to Metamorph, but it said it did not have a comment.

Tags
Tip Off ROF

Comments

Distraught employee 02 December 22 09:21

0920 no pay, no board update, rumours of 1 or 2 offices locked down. 

Mortgage defaulted on, unable to buy the children Xmas presents, borrowing money for fuel and to keep electric on and applying a food bank parcel. 

Tony stockdale and Simon goldhill... I hope you are happy. You are [redacted] and ruining families lives. Karma will get you. 

Tiny Stockpile 02 December 22 09:50

It breaks my heart that they can treat people - the very people who make Stockdale and Goldhilll’s money - with such disrespect.  It’s all a game to them.   I’m one of the lucky ones who didn’t TUPE over but like everyone else I haven’t been paid.  Enjoy your Christmas Stockdale and Goldhill.  

Ex Employee 02 December 22 10:21

Oh wow! To be honest, this doesn’t surprise me one bit. We all saw it coming! That’s why I got out a couple of years ago.

Tony Stockdale seems to like destroying lives. So how long will Knowles Benning last now until he destroys that too? 
 

I still don’t know why the SRA haven’t been fussed by any of this. 
 

 

Tony aka Ebenezer Scrooge 02 December 22 10:39

SRA and government should lock all of their offices and make Tony and all of his puppets accountable for their actions! I am so sorry for all of the ex and current employees.

Koala Tree Sullied Traders 02 December 22 11:15

Quality Solicitors has been sold to its management team, and is no longer part of the metamorph group.

QS Legal Limited have significant control, who are sep... Stockdale! https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/company/13890213/filing-history

Anonymous 02 December 22 11:34

@Koala Tree Sullied Traders

Note also - Notification of Christine Stockdale as a person with significant control on 18 November 2022

Clearly Tony wants to try and keep his name out of this one but failing miserably to do so...

Badgerpoo 02 December 22 12:21

Still no pay ! It’s all very dodgy trying to transfer cash assets before the liquidators were appointed. Remaining staff could lose their homes and certainly won’t have a good Christmas. 
merry Christmas to the f*****s. One assumes they still got their salary ! 
angry.com

Parody Tony Stockdale 02 December 22 12:45

Another company dissolved, me and my mates walk away with the cash and all ex/employees will get their pay when the Aliens land on Earth.

Anonymous 02 December 22 13:17

I was locked out this week, it was very very distressing being a current employee and watching others clear out files and computers was just madness..  

 

Anonymous Anonymous 02 December 22 13:35

A top Accountant should be running more legal companies. Monitoring financial figures and paying your bills on time is important in order to save jobs.

Tony pizda 02 December 22 13:36

It is just unbelieveable... They do not care about us at all! Hope karma will get back to them quick. Hope you Christmas will be worst than ours Tony and your band! 

Accountability 02 December 22 14:28

I’ve seen colleagues reduced to tears because they can’t get an up date, and still can’t. Senior management haven’t supported staff or kept them in the loop. Offices have just been left to fend for themselves. The Board aka Tony’s updates were always about how good the asset stripping process was going and how soon we would all be saved. I hope everyone gets out and gets to work for a firm that doesnt try to feed you lies and pays its staff.

Anonymous ex employee 02 December 22 17:34

Tony Stockdale I cannot even find the words to describe you. Still no pay, no updates. I am not even sure whether I was redundant immediately from BPL Solicitors or whether I did actually complete the TUPE transfer.  

You don't care that employees are struggling to pay their mortgages and bills. In the updates we do get it is always someone else's fault. Well all this is YOUR fault and the Board who don't have courage to stand up to you.

Thankfully I have been able to get out.

I hope the you have a miserable Christmas.

 

 

 

Saranjit Hothi 02 December 22 19:00

How do i get access to my file (i'm a customer)?

Im still waiting for my property to be registry with land registry

Magpie 02 December 22 20:16

Having worked closely with Tony and those around him, he is only interested in [redacted]. How he is still allowed to be an accountant, and Goldhill a solicitor is beyond me.

They've caused tremendous issues for their employees and tried to wear many staff down in a "war of attrition" to make people leave before Metamorph had to pay Rredundancy.

Escobar 02 December 22 20:19

Absolutely disgusting that we received the redundancy "proposal" letter after the removal men turned up!

Please can Goldhill and Stockdale be permanently banned from directing?

Anonymous 02 December 22 21:22

He fuc&ed up Tenon, he switched to law.  Tony “I’ll turn it to shit” Stockdale strikes again.

Midas turned it to gold.  Tony turns it to shit. 

 

MichelleRock 02 December 22 23:54

Still owed 4 months of pension contributions which by the way you did actually deduct from my salary but not pay into my pension. Theft! 

Anonymous 03 December 22 08:14

The SLC offices at Telford haven't been cleared yet but locked out. Have the Terry Jones Conveyancing at Telford been cleared yet?

Anonymous 03 December 22 08:19

18000 files removed from the Lytham office without clients permission or indeed knowledge. Taken to Knowles Benning apparently, though no address, email, phone number or name of who to contact provided to the owners of these important original documents. They were literally thrown into boxes, not catalogued. The pain and misery this will cause relatives when they try to locate the original will. 
how can the SRA say this is in the clients best interests ? 
[redacted] have raided them because of the potential worth arising from subsequent probates. They will no doubt sell them on, causing more misery and chaos for the owners. 
Throw into the mix the utter dishonesty of insisting staff work until the 30 th November. The last pay day before Christmas only to tell them by zoom at 1 pm they were sacked and no wages. 
[redacted]
The national press should be alerted. 
 

 

Magpie again 03 December 22 08:40

Metamorph can't even get liquidation right - I'm still awaiting the number to allow me to apply to the government portal for 1 month's pay, accrued holiday, 1 week's leave and pension arrears!

It's disgusting that Tiny is allowed to finance the working capital in his businesses by withholding tax, salary and pension payments. 

Anon 03 December 22 14:39

Some of the firms acquired by Metamorph have been trading since the 1800s. All have been established for many decades at least. Yet within two years of Metamorph ownership they find themselves either wound up or financially ruined, or forced into a rebrand due to their reputations being utterly decimated, with a mountain of unpaid debts to staff, suppliers, estate agents, expert witnesses and even utilities. How, and why did this happen?

By July 2022, pension payments were already two months behind and salary payments were sporadic at best, but Tony Stockdale still found the funds to acquire Knowles Benning that month. How? Where did the money for that come from? If the takeover was for a nominal amount, how much debt was acquired in the process and why was this considered a good idea? Just how bad were things at Knowles Benning that they thought Tony Stockdale was the answer? Or were the owners offered so much money that they couldn’t think straight over the popping of champagne corks?

So many questions. I reckon a 6-part Netflix documentary would provide some fascinating answers, but unfortunately the SRA don’t seem even remotely curious.

 

Anonymous 03 December 22 15:18

Tony please consider the employees now. We are all in limbo. This couldn’t happen at a worse time, last payday before Christmas. We all have bills to pay and now late payment charges so Christmas will be cancelled in my home. Do what’s right for one. Pay the people that have stuck by you, make redundant those who no longer have an office to work from and be upfront with the ones who still have a job. Do this now Tony because we all need to move on from this and the torture is unbearable.

Devastated and broken hearted 04 December 22 11:00

I’ve had to let my family and children know that there will be no Christmas this year.

I can’t even bring myself to put up the tree. Years and years of hard work and dedication to my job, and I can’t even get paid. How we don’t all walk away at this point… I don’t even know.

most of us though feel loyalty to our clients so will work anyway, because of them. Sad the board don’t feel that level of loyalty to their employees. I’m sure their families aren’t going without this Christmas.

promise of a 5% pay increase on December 1st pay for “ sticking it out” just a few weeks ago. Oh how we were all hopeful. December 1st came…. No pay at all definitely no 5% pay increase. Why would you do this to people?

I am sure they don’t come here and read this…. Why would they they don’t want to see or be accountable for what they have done and are doing to people and their lives.  This isn’t misfortune… at this point it’s criminal!!! 
 

I am sure their bank accounts aren’t suffering like their employees are. 

Anonymous 04 December 22 11:43

This didn't happen like this when partners were had personal and unlimited (joint and several) liability.

Former Employee 04 December 22 15:17

Never experienced anything like this, from the bullying managers and vile hr to the total lack of responsibility for any compliance in any area of their operations.  Left in September, have just received pension welcome pack but the contributions haven’t been sent over which were deducted from wages…The only conclusion is that the SRA is a toothless, useless mechanism and people like tony stockdale do things like this with total impunity as there aren’t any effective sanctions.  Sympathy to anyone who was already struggling to complete a house purchase/sale using this conveyancing business, they got no chance now.  Where is the SRA??

Saranjit Hothi 04 December 22 15:36

Will files from Beaumont be transferred to Knowles , when I call them they know nothing about it? I’m awaiting post completion .

 

Disappointed is an understatement.

Sad and scared employee 04 December 22 21:49

How our days look at the minute. Spending 8 hours of your day in a office with you crying colleagues and scared clients shouting down the phone at you. Relationships with referrers and clients that have been built over many of years now ruined. Over a hundred emails a day none from Tony or the Board just abusive comments being called a “thief” and “incompetent” by desperate clients. Being petrified your going to turn up at the office one morning only for the OR and SRA to be there. Not knowing which company you are working for. Literally feel like your are being tortured waiting for news. Not being able to pay bills. We are scared and desperate and begging for news or assistance everyday only to get no response. We physically and mentally cannot carry on like this much longer it will kill us. We are desperately trying to get out 😞

An Ex is an ex for a reason... 05 December 22 07:12

Feeling the pain of this from the greener side of the fence :( 

How anyone enjoys playing with people's lives is beyond me. 

The partners of Knowles Benning should hang their heads in shame for allowing their good name to be dragged through the mud like this all for the sake of 'deserving to retire' ...no care for those who put heart and soul in... no due diligence cos wallets were open and eyes were wide in wonder. Shows the true substance. 

The conmen win...or do they really? 

My heart goes out to everyone in this sorry mess and I only hope you get your hard earned wages. There will be companies out there who will snap you up. Bless your hearts xxx

 

See you next Tuesday 05 December 22 07:37

Let's just suppose that the companies were purchased on the "never never" - I.e. an upfront payment but mostly deferred consideration. Won't a lot of sellers have regretted their decision? Especially the ones unfortunate to still have their own name associated with Stockdale and Goldhill?

Current employee 05 December 22 07:56

Another day gone by and still no wages in my account. The anxiety I currently feel has left me bed bound. My partner has had to contact the bank for a loan as we do not have enough to cover our bills, never mind sort out Christmas. Tony[...] has ruined lives and shows no remorse for it. Where are the SRA!!

Peter Lord 05 December 22 10:16

Morph would never behave like this. It's just not in the shape of his character. Although he is more verbally articulate than the Metamorph board. 

Anon 05 December 22 15:24

Does anyone know what happens to client assets?  Used a solicitor under the umbrella and they were due to pay the estate funds from the probate process to me as the executor on Friday.  Had an email on Friday morning and the follow up phone call to validate the details I had given but then no payment.  I'm assuming the payment was blocked due the accounts team not existing anymore or the bank account being frozen.  I believe that if nothing happens in the comings days/weeks that I can go to the SRA who apparently regulate these folks for compensation from the compensation scheme.

Hoping also that the employees get paid and can move forward in their careers, people do not deserve this.

 

Anon 05 December 22 16:09

My own pension contributions taken but not paid to funds for 4 months. Company contributions the same. 

My expenses not paid from October although client monies we available to rightly clear them. 

No wages received for November. Company blaming shock appointment of Official Receiver for the compamy we TUPE'd from. How can that be a shock appointment, surely forseeable. 

How can a company buy a struggling company when they have the same Director? How can a Company buy another company and TUPE staff when it does not appear to have funds to pay them?

How can a Company not pay its staff wages and continue to trade without one of the organisations overseeing the transfer stepping in. 

How can client funds be locked in client account indefinitely, meaning clients are suffering undue hardship and concern. 

How are staff supposed to keep looking after client interests when they have no ability to make payments. Staff are still accountable to the SRA in these circumstances. 

When will this madness cease please? Anyone? 

Sad employee 05 December 22 17:35

Not been paid last payday before Christmas can’t afford to pay mortgage or buy the kids presents. Tony is silent after assuring us the money was there. He’s a monster :( 

Ex Employee 06 December 22 13:07

Shame on the SRA for not getting involved in this!!! Do they really still believe that Metamorph or whatever they are called these days are acting in the clients best interest!!! 
They are absolutely not!!!! 
 

To this day I am still appalled that all the ex directors/partners of all the companies that now make up this mess let Metamorph/Tony Stockdale take control! 

I’m not going to name any names, but the firm I worked for was once a lovely reputable firm! Then the directors of the once lovely reputable firm got greedy (although I’m still of the belief it was only one or two of them that pushed for the Metamorph takeover) It’s sad that they didn’t listen to their loyal staff at the time who all warned them it would end in disaster if they let Tony Stockdale take the reigns! 
 

Well that is what happened! So yes, Tony Stockdale is to blame for all of this but those ex directors/partners of the individual firms should also hang their heads in shame for putting the staff through all this! I’m glad I didn’t suffer there until the end! 
 

RIP to those once reputable traditional law firms! 
 

 

Anon 06 December 22 18:45

Dear SRA, have you seen a pattern yet? How many firms are Stockdale and Goldhill going to do this to before you spring into action?

I know you’re super busy with important stuff like investigating solicitors’ unpaid train fares (so glad you got that one sorted, phew) but I really think this matter may be worth your attention. I’ll even get you started for free:
 

Principle 2 - ‘Must act in a way that upholds the public’s confidence in the profession.’

Principle 3 - ‘Must act with independence’

Principle 4 - ‘Must act with honesty’

Principle 5 - ‘Must act with integrity’

Principle 7 - ‘Must act in the best interests of each client’.

The issue: a dozen or so long-standing and respected law firms utterly destroyed. Staff not paid. Pension contributions going missing. Clients unable to be served. Knowles Benning being the latest, just four months after being acquired by…

The individuals: Tony Stockdale and Simon Goldhill.

Happy to help further if needed, but I’m afraid I’ll have to charge a fee due to my current financial situation (see above).

Employee of the past! 06 December 22 19:14

It’s interesting to see the amount of thumbs down on the comments.

But, it’s good to see as it means either Tony or someone else who is responsible for the mess and misery to staff are reading…..just clearly not feeling any shame. 
 

It really does sum some people up eh? 
 

To those of you let down by Tony and the others you used to look up to, I really hope you do manage to have a good Christmas with your families xoxo 

And as for Tony and the others responsible for getting you in this situation, I really do hope that one day you feel total shame and remorse. Ruining people’s lives certainly isn’t something to be proud of. 

Anonymous 06 December 22 21:33

If Tony had left a file on the train, the SRA would be all over this.  The SRA is a despised and pathetic organization which habitually goes missing whenever there is a genuine non-woke issue to deal with. 

Gordon Gecko's Sense Of Shame 07 December 22 11:56

Surely the SRA will step in soon and close us down? We need this to happen. It's the only way we will be able to claim anything from the government, rather than keeping this zombie company going. 

Anonymous 08 December 22 15:37

As  a solicitor I know that if one makes the slightest mistake etc the SRA moves in and comes down on us like a "Ton of Bricks". Why are they then not dealing with the ongoing humiliation which is Metamorph or whatever it calls itself? In any event, there seems to be an increasing trend to allow non-lawyer organisations to acquire vibrant firms and then bankrupt them. Where is the regulation?

It is the staff who suffer, not the Stockdales of this world. Grand plans are just that unless there are funds to back them up. Clearly he did not have those funds. It is so sad to see great firms like Knowles Benning having their names and reputations destroyed by others who appear incompetent. 

Related News

X

Don’t miss your best career move. Receive approaches from top law firms and in-house employers when they want someone just like you.