Penningtons partner gave £550k of client money to his associate lover
04 November 2016
A partner at Pennington Manches gave half a million pounds of a client's money to an associate he was boffing and, when he was caught, blamed a junior lawyer.
Estates lawyer Anthony Whitwell was introduced to 90-year-old 'Mrs JDB' by a female associate, named 'Ms F' in proceedings
, who was a family friend of the elderly woman. Whitwell was having an affair with Ms F, who worked in his team, but at no point did he tell that to his firm or Mrs JDB.
Before Whitwell's involvement in 2011, Mrs JDB's will left £50,000 to Ms F. But after a private meeting with the woman, Whitwell redrafted her will so that her estate would be held in a discretionary trust by Penningtons Manches partners acting as executors. When Mrs JDB died that October, Whitwell drafted a deed appointing himself as sole executor and gifted £550,000 in cash, jewelry and chattels to Ms F.
But despite showering his paramour with treasure, the following August their affair ended and in October Whitwell confessed his office romance to his wife, while Ms F resigned. A few weeks later, someone tipped off the firm's compliance officer and Penningtons alerted the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
||Whitwell, in the doghouse until he finds £550k of gifts for his wife.
While new solicitors were appointed as executors and Ms F agreed to return the funds, Whitwell tried to shift the blame onto a 1PQE lawyer in his team, telling SRA officers that she had drafted the deed of appointment and completed it. He said that when the SRA showed him a copy it had made him "incandescent with rage
", because, "I should not have been the only person on that Deed of Appointment
", and the 1PQE "should have known that
Whitwell subsequently admitted that he had been lying, and had drafted the deed. He admitted acting dishonestly, without integrity and in a conflict of interest.
His barrister said that Whitwell's “focus now was on preserving his improved mental state and rebuilding his relationship with his wife
". He said the partner, who left Penningtons in 2013, no longer wished to practice as a solicitor. Which is lucky because he was struck off.
Whitwell agreed to pay £56,500 in costs. A spokeswoman for Penningtons Manches said, "no fault has been attributed to any other member of the legal team at Penningtons