Hamish Fletcher

Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Finance company lawyer suspended for a year

Robert Whale. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Robert Whale. Photo / Brett Phibbs

A convicted failed finance company director has been suspended from practising law for a year.

Dominion Finance and North South Finance director Robert Barry Whale was acquitted of theft by person in a special relationship charges in a Serious Fraud Office case last year.

But the lawyer - in his mid 60s - was last year sentenced on separate charges to 12 months home detention, 250 hours of community service and ordered to pay $75,000 in reparations after he admitted making untrue statements in offer documents.

The Auckland solicitor, yet to finish serving his home detention at an Epsom property, appeared before the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal in Auckland in March.

He did not contest the charge brought by the Law Society that his convictions amounted to conduct that would tend to bring the profession into disrepute.

In a statement this afternoon, the Law Society said the tribunal had suspended Whale from practice as a barrister and solicitor for 12 twelve months commencing from 20 March and that he was ordered to pay costs.

New Zealand Law Society President Chris Moore said the High Court found that Whale's conduct amounted to "gross negligence" and that he had admitted that he had not read finance company prospectuses before signing them.

"Our securities laws are there to protect the public and to keep investors fully informed. The public is entitled to expect that members of the legal profession will perform to a high standard and ensure that protection is maintained," Moore said.

Whale's year-long suspension is higher than what the Law Society had suggested during the failed finance company director's hearing.

Peter Davey, acting for the Law Society's Auckland Standards Committee, said a period of suspension similar to that given to Bridgecorp chairman Bruce Davidson was appropriate,
although Whale did have the advantage of admitting the allegations.

Davidson, who was convicted for misleading investors, was last year suspended from practising as a lawyer for nine months.

Davey, during the March hearing, submitted that Whale should be suspended for at least seven months.

- NZ Herald

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