"This is even worse than the time you binge-watched an entire season of Breaking Bad behind my back."
A solicitor has been struck off for deleting emails from the SRA to his wife, who co-owned their firm, in order to conceal an investigation.
Solicitor James Huxtable was the co-director and a compliance officer of Absolute Legal in Surbiton, now defunct. His wife, Kamal Huxtable (a fellow solicitor), was also a co-director and compliance officer.
In May 2019 an ex-client of Absolute Legal contacted the SRA regarding a property that they had purchased. The former client said they had received letters from the council stating that there were potential planning breaches and the property had not been registered at the Land Registry.
In August 2019, the SRA wrote to Kamal Huxtable in her capacity as a compliance officer about the property. The regulator then sent a follow-up email two months later.
But Kamal said that she never saw any of the SRA's email, and the first time she found out about its investigation was when an officer turned up at the firm's office in March 2020.
Mr Huxtable later admitted to the SRA that he deleted the emails to try and hide the investigation from his wife.
The investigating officer discovered that £50k was missing from the firm's client account regarding two matters. In an earlier interview with the SRA, Mr Huxtable had indicated that he had used the money to pay a tax liability.
However, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found that Mr Huxtable had used the money for a purpose not permitted under the accounts rules, and failed to reconcile the accounts. He had also acted recklessly in neglecting to obtain accountants' reports for several years.
The SDT said Mr Huxtable had been motivated "to hide the firm's financial distress and the chaos into which his accounts had descended, and to conceal the SRA’s investigation from his wife”.
“This may have started as something spontaneous," said the tribunal, "but it became a deliberate course of action which spiralled away from Mr Huxtable.
The SDT also slammed Mr Huxtable for abusing "the trust placed in him by his clients to look after their money. Due to the poor state of the accounts, it was not possible to determine whether all the money due to his clients had been returned.”
The tribunal said that Mr Huxtable “had made no attempt to pay back the lost funds". His wife repaid £40,000 to the clients - made up of £13,000 in office money and £27,000 from her own funds.
Mr Huxtable was struck off the roll and ordered to pay costs of £18,500.