Not paying Peter to pay Paul, because Peter showed no loyalty by quitting.
The Metamorph Group is closing down one of its law firms and plans to transfer three others to another firm in the organisation as part of a major restructuring, RollOnFriday understands.
Departing staff publicly excoriated Tony Stockdale, the Executive Chairman, for his company's "utterly disgraceful" failure to pay their wages, and for his refusal to respond to their calls for help.
Beaumont Legal, Linder Myers, Telford-based SLC Solicitors, and Donnelly & Elliot Solicitors in Gosport are all set to be terminated in their current form according to an email seen by ROF, affecting hundreds of employees.
In an email sent on Monday and leaked to RollOnFriday, the Metamorph Group's board informed staff that the assets of conveyancing firm Beaumont Legal and MLL Limited, which owns Linder Myers, SLS and Donnelly & Elliot, would be sold to Knowles Benning, another Metamorph firm.
In an email sent on Friday morning, also leaked to RollOnFriday, management informed staff that following discussions with potential investors, the SLS, Linder Myers and D&E brands would survive through the additional transfer of their IP to Knowles Benning.
On Monday, the board informed staff that Metamorph, which owns 14 legal brands, was in talks with a "major organisation" to take a minority equity stake in the group before Christmas, which it said would provide "meaningful funds to assist with continued growth and development".
Stripped of management spin, 'growth and development' may mean simply staying afloat. A number of Metamorph firms including Beaumont Legal and Linder Myers have been issued with winding up petitions. HMRC is known to be one of the creditors which has taken action, while Connells Limited, an estate agent and property services company, has issued a winding up petition in respect of Beaumont.
Beaumont Legal's disappearing act was a surprise to clients, according to a source. "They were given 5-7 days' notice that they had to agree to the change", they said.
Rumours are now circulating amongst Metamorph staff that if a deal to save the business can't be struck, the group will enter liquidation on 11 November. One source told RollOnFriday that numerous staff had "walked and are currently looking for alternative employment" after they opted not to transfer across to Knowles Benning under TUPE.
Staff reported not being paid in October, and affected employees who were working out their notices took to LinkedIn to express their frustration publicly.
"Payday is it?" wrote Luke Kirk, a case handler at Beaumont Legal. "I wouldn’t know once again metamorph haven’t paid me on time".
"Stockdale would you like to break radio silence and update your stressed and financially impacted staff or are you going to continue to ignore MY DIRECT MESSAGES and several emails you have been sent along with other directors within the company?" he asked.
Kirk described the decision to withhold pay from departing staff as "utterly disgraceful treatment of dozens of ex-employees" and a "targeted attack" on those who had quit the business.
Shanice Ahmed also used the networking platform to implore Stockdale to pay what she's owed. "We would be grateful if you could respond to our emails, or at least provide a general update/explanation to your staff! This is the third month running you have failed to pay your employees on time", said the case handler.
"We have all noticed that this month, coincidentally, only the employees who have left the business or are working through their notice period haven’t received their wages. The wages that we have worked hard for. Worked hard in unbearable conditions because you couldn’t afford to fix the heating system in the office!"
Ahmed described how "we were forced to sit through shifts in coats and scarves, with hot water bottles so our hands were warm enough to type", in an indication of where Metamorph is making cuts to save money.
"This is utterly disgusting; we have been patient for the last 3 months and still, no communication from you or anyone else on the board. When will we get paid?!" demanded Ahmed.
Not happy either.
Kirk told RollOnFriday, "I personally am unable currently to afford fuel or food and am living off what I have at home which is a quickly diminishing stock, with no idea of dates, times, reasons".
"This is before the fact my pension is 6 months behind being paid", he added. "Given I have left the company I feel I’m shouting at a brick wall and they’re literally laughing at my suffering".
He told RollOnFriday that after Metamorph received ROF's request for comment, he was paid.
Metamorph previously failed to pay its staff on time over the summer, prompting Stockdale to send a mea culpa to staff announcing his resignation as CEO (but not as chairman) and promising an injection of shareholder cash.
Metamorph did not respond to requests for comment.
This story has been updated to reflect the email sent to staff on Friday and leaked to ROF, which also promised that pension contributions would be brought up to date in November, that everyone would get a raise of at least 5% on 1 December, and that all those still at the company on 31 March 2023 would be paid a £500 “loyalty bonus”.