Hamish Fletcher

Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Bridgecorp chair Davidson suspended as lawyer

Former Bridgecorp chairman Bruce Davidson. Photo / NZPA
Former Bridgecorp chairman Bruce Davidson. Photo / NZPA

Former Bridgecorp chairman Bruce Davidson has been suspended from practicing as a lawyer for nine months from today.

Davidson, now in his mid-70s, pleaded guilty to 10 Securities Act charges for misstatements in Bridgecorp's offer documents and was sentenced in 2011 to nine months' home detention, 200 hours' community work and paid $500,000 in reparations.

Following a hearing last year, the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal found Davidson's conviction had tended to bring the legal profession into disrepute and censured him. The decision was, however, split and a minority of the tribunal disagreed the allegation brought before it had been proven.

Davidson, a former president of the Auckland District Law Society and past vice-president of the New Zealand Law Society, took issue with the majority's decision and appealed it in the High Court in August.

At the same time, a standards committee of the Law Society appealed the decision that Davidson's convictions did not reflect on his fitness to practise as a lawyer.

The committee also appealed the penalty Davidson received from the tribunal on the grounds it was "manifestly inadequate".

It sought an order suspending Davidson as a lawyer and/or a fine.

One of Davidson's arguments during the appeal was that the tribunal had relied on matters outside the circumstances of his conviction in its decision.

Justice Brendan Brown, who considered the arguments, dismissed Davidson's appeal.

"Consequently on the basis of my own consideration of the matter I consider that Mr Davidson's conviction on the 10 charges in question, given the offending which gave rise to the charges, the likely and actual consequences of the offending and the prominence of his legal experience in his profile as director and chairman, result in the convictions tending to bring the legal profession into disrepute," the judge said in his decision last month.

Justice Brown also dismissed the standard committee appeal on the tribunal's ruling that the convictions reflected on Davidson's fitness to practise as a lawyer.

However, he allowed the committee's appeal on Davidson's penalty.

"In all the circumstances of this case I do not consider that a censure was a sufficient penalty so as to maintain the public's confidence in the profession's discharge of its obligation to discipline its members...I do not view the present case as one where an order less than suspension should be entertained," he said.

While the standards committee pushed for 12-month suspension, Justice Brown said a period of nine months was sufficient.

The suspension begins from today, a spokesperson for the Law Society confirmed this morning.

- NZ Herald

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