Former Wairarapa lawyer Lindsay Boyd Gribben blamed one elderly ‘spendthrift’ client for part of the money he had stolen.
Gribben, who previously practised in the South Island before moving to the Wairarapa, was struck off the roll of barristers and solicitors last week, for misappropriating more than $900,000 over a nine-year period.
The action by the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal came after WCM Legal’s discovery of two financial irregularities in its accounts in 2018.
It led to them bringing in the police and the termination of Gribben’s contract with them on December 7, 2018. At the time, Gribben had been with the firm for two years, as a principal [director].
He was a partner at Major Gooding and Partners from 1996 to 2016. It was while with the former company most of the fraud occurred. Gribben debited $812,165 of funds from a trust account held on behalf of a couple, who were based overseas, and their company.
Former principal at WCM Legal, Keith McClure said the team were, “horrified by Lindsay Gribben’s actions”.
“We immediately removed Lindsay Gribben from the practice and we proactively asked The New Zealand Law Society to undertake an urgent audit.
“The audit confirmed the two irregularities in our own accounts, and those were resolved immediately once we discovered them.
“We take our responsibilities to our clients extremely seriously. At the time we sought outside support to make sure this high level of care hadn’t been affected. No other clients were involved.
“We worked closely with the law society and they have given us confirmation that no other clients or their funds were affected.”
Gribben admitted to Judge Dale Clarkson that he misappropriated a total amount of $901, 294 over a nine-year period from September 2009 to November 2018, when WCM Legal caught him. At least 170 transactions have been traced.
He compounded his misdeeds by blaming one of his elderly clients, saying one client from whom money was stolen was “known to be spendthrift” and suffered from a mental disorder.
Some of the funds have since been repaid.
Gribben admitted four charges of misconduct based on the grounds that it would be ‘regarded by lawyers of good standing as disgraceful or dishonourable’ and; it consisted of ‘reckless contravention of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006’.
In a media statement the tribunal said: “Aggravating the offending was the fact that some of the clients resided overseas and were reliant on Mr Gribben’s honesty in operating accounts for them in New Zealand and acting on major transactions on their behalf.”
One victim has said they ended up out of pocket by at least $300,000, including fees
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