He allowed corporate clients to transfer $ 473,000 through his escrow accounts without asking questions or providing legal services
A West Vancouver lawyer has been suspended for two weeks for professional misconduct because he has allowed corporate clients to transfer $ 473,000 through his trust accounts without asking questions or providing legal services.
Douglas Joseph William Hammond's suspension began on July 2 following a decision by a B.C. Legal company.
Hammond admitted that he had committed professional misconduct when he allowed an investor in 2016 to use his escrow account to make payments to a company "without providing related legal services and (not) investigating the circumstances of the matter to hire and record "for the decision of the legal society.
The legal company presented by Hammond relates to areas of "crucial importance … ensuring the proper use of escrow accounts and combating money laundering".
Several red flags should have caused Hammond to refuse to use his escrow account before asking the Bar, according to the Bar, that he hadn't personally met the investor or verified his identity that it involved multiple entities and that no legal services were requested.
Hammond's failure to ask questions "created an unacceptable risk that the escrow account could inadvertently be used for money laundering or other shameful business," the written decision said.
Lawyers, the panel wrote, "must act as gatekeepers of their escrow accounts" to ensure that their accounts "are not confiscated from money laundering activities".
Mitigating factors included the fact that Hammond was only involved through a long-standing trustworthy legal acquaintance, was familiar with a company involved, and that funds were transferred between Canadian banks.
Hammond agreed to the two-week suspension and informed the panel that he was now more sensitive to the problem. He also agreed to pay the bar fee of $ 1,000.
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