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Categories:Regulation

Solicitors probed over mortgage fraud

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The Solicitors Regulation Authority carried out 106 investigations into solicitor firms last year as part of a crackdown on solicitors involved in mortgage fraud.

Out of the 106 investigations conducted by the SRA where there was suspected misconduct in relation to mortgages or property, 22 law firms have been closed down by the SRA, and 24 cases have been referred to the police for investigation.

A further 30 cases have been referred by the SRA to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, which has the power to strike off solicitors, with other investigations continuing.  

The SRA estimate that these emergency inspections have saved lenders between £15m and £20m in the past nine months alone.

The regulator handled over 400 cases of suspected mortgage and property fraud last year, an increase on the 356 reports in 2008 and just 85 reports in 2005.

The SRA has now issued advice and warnings to all solicitors’ firms, alerting them to the warning signs of suspicious transactions.

It has also reminded firms that they need to ensure they do not become embroiled in fraud and to report any suspicions they may have.

“We are committed to working closely with the SRA during 2010, and beyond, to target corrupt solicitors who we believe are a significant enabler of property fraud.”

Robert Wishart, detective superintendent of the City of London Police, national lead force for fraud investigation

Steve Wilmott, head of the fraud and confidential intelligence bureau at the SRA, says:  “Last year the SRA stepped up its work to prevent, deter and tackle mortgage fraud.

“Mortgage fraud is a serious issue for home owners and lenders.  

“We are working closely with major lenders and the police to share intelligence and take prompt action.”

Dan Watkins, managing director for mortgages at Lloyds Banking Group, says: “The financial services industry faces a serious and continued threat of mortgage fraud that is orchestrated by rogue solicitors.

“Lloyds Banking Group supports all efforts that are made to combat this threat.”

Robert Wishart, detective superintendent of the City of London Police, national lead force for fraud investigation, says: “We are committed to working closely with the SRA during 2010, and beyond, to target corrupt solicitors who we believe are a significant enabler of property fraud. 

“Working in collaboration will help us to better understand the threats and give us the opportunity to take preventative and enforcement action to protect the financial community”.

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Readers' comments (17)

  • Well well well. To think Solicitors used to be regarded as pillars of Society and they often claim that they are the only people in the financial services retail world, people can trust. Well well well.

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  • Name and shame - they're quick enough to name brokers who commit mortgage fraud why not solicitors too?

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  • About time too ! Always said that a "Profession" that stood up in court and bent the truth on behalf of their clients would do the same sort of thing outside court for their own advantage ! . . . just how far do they bend it before it breaks ? . . . actually, I have taken on far too many in court to have any illusions about their honesty !

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  • Yes, who are the companies struck off? We hear in the press every day about another broker who has had their license revoked and the 1st thing the FSA do as tell everyone exactly who these people are and where they worked.
    So why not with these solicitors?

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  • I would like to know what the mortgage fraud was in these cases. Can there be 'fraud' and fraud; with one being distinct from the other, one a criminal activity and the other just not wanting to look to deeply at what would otherwise be just a normal house purchase transaction? I am not trying to excuse what has or might be done but I would like to consider them in some sort of context. I say this because we are in an age and society where even the most petty of transgressions may be ruled unacceptable and where something is seen to be going wrong someone has to blamed for it.

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  • Name and Shame. We need to know for so many reasons. We may have inadvertently dealt with them in the past. Probably scared they will be taken to court, perhaps?

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  • I commented last week on the mortgage fraud issue of losses of £1bn last year and mentioned how much the Solicitors were responsible for. I am glad Mortgage Strategy have run this article - as all too often the accusing fingers are pointed at the brokers.

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  • Yes I think that the FSA should name and shame the solicitors who have allegedly done this, the same way they always disgrace mortgage brokers. Its only fair.

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  • Name and shame these firms and advisers - the FSA do it to brokers so the same rules should apply.

    Greedy and crooked Solicitors should not get away with being named.

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  • To Anonymous at 12.04pm - why are you asking the FSA to name and shame? The FSA aren't the ones carrying out the investigation!

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