Between July 2007 and May 2012, we acted in 65 conveyancing transactions where clients had specifically requested to utilise various Stamp Duty Land Tax (“SDLT) mitigation schemes. BPE facilitated the use of such schemes following advice from tax specialists and chartered accountants and on the specific instructions of our clients.
In February 2012 the SRA issued a warning notice in respect of these schemes and we ceased to undertake them.
Following a protracted investigation, the SRA has deemed that during the course of these transactions, BPE failed to act in the best interests of lender clients (i.e. building societies or other mortgage lenders) in 38 of these cases by not notifying the lender that an SDLT scheme was being employed. The Divisional Court have recently ruled that this represented a conflict of interest, or a potential conflict of interest between private and lender clients, although there is no evidence that any parties suffered any adverse impact, and no complaint has been made to us. Having taken specialist advice, we have agreed to enter in to a Regulatory Settlement Agreement, which will shortly be published on the SRA website.
We always have and always will take great care to act in the best interest of our clients, and obviously, had it been clear at the time, that any conflict or potential conflict arose, or if there had been any actual risk to any party, we would not (along with 700 other firms) have taken on the work.