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Asons Solicitors to repay AXA Insurance £70,000 after admitting to falsely inflating legal costs

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karlypants

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Controversial law firm Asons has agreed to repay an insurance company almost £70,000 after admitting to falsely inflating its legal costs.

Asons exaggerated the qualifications and experience of its legal staff ‘systematically’, to make the bills sent to AXA Insurance artificially higher in 65 personal injury cases .

Asons admitted that it was systematically attempting to present false and misleading information on an organised basis to exaggerate their claim for costs.

But they denied acting fraudulently.

AXA began a review of a number of cost claims involving Asons in last January.

It followed the case of Kevin Dale v Schroff UK Ltd at Manchester County Court in July, 2015.

Asons claimed the member of staff, or ‘fee earner’, working on that case had more than six years of litigation experience. In fact, they had less than two years.

Law firms set their fees based on the time spent working on a case, the location from which the case is handled and the seniority of the ‘fee earner’ involved.

Firms charge more when the most senior lawyers, typically called in on high profile or complex matters, handle cases.

Asons claimed the increased fee was down to an administrative error, but the court sanctioned the company for misconduct.

AXA's investigations unearthed 65 further cases, settled between September, 2013 and December, 2014, where Asons had inflated their legal costs with false representations about the fee earners.

As part of the settlement for these 65 claims, Asons has agreed to pay AXA more than £40,000 in legal costs, as well as the near £70,000 in damages and interest.

The news comes after Asons was at the centre of a huge row following an exclusive Bolton News report revealed that it had received a £300,000 grant from Bolton Council to help with the redevelopment of its new headquarters in Newspaper House, Churchgate.

Gian Luigi di Franco, claims manager at AXA said: “We are delighted to have settled our dispute with Asons and that they have admitted to exaggerating the experience of their legal staff to inflate their legal costs.

“This is just the kind of behaviour that the insurance industry has been highlighting for years now, behaviour that is fuelling a compensation culture across the country.

"This was a systematic attempt to secure funds that Asons ought to have known they were not entitled to.

"We hope and expect that this victory sends a strong message to those in the claimant lawyer fraternity who would undermine the reputation of and trust in their profession purely in the pursuit of money."

An Asons spokesman said: “We take matters like this very seriously. Following a complaint by AXA, an internal investigation was immediately undertaken.

"We reported the matter to our Regulator and any overpayments were returned. New procedures were instigated and we are satisfied that there has been no reoccurence of the historical issues raised by AXA.”

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Last edited by karlypants on Wed Feb 15 2017, 07:22; edited 1 time in total

Norpig

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Jussi Jääskeläinen
Jussi Jääskeläinen
very dodgy firm, now for the 300K you owe Bolton taxpayers you ambulance chasers

karlypants

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Asons could face sanction from Solicitors Regulation Authority

Asons Solicitors could face sanctions from a regulatory body if it finds evidence of misconduct.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which supervises law firms in England and Wales, has confirmed that it is considering taking action against the business.

It was revealed yesterday that Asons has agreed to repay AXA Insurance almost £70,000 after admitting to falsely inflating its legal costs.

The SRA has the power to impose a range of sanctions, ranging from a low level rebuke up to a £2,000 fine.

If it believes that any alleged misconduct is more serious, then matters are referred to the independent Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, where the SRA is the prosecuting authority and would have to prove the allegations to the criminal standard of proof.

An SRA spokesperson said: “We are aware of the situation and are gathering all relevant information before deciding on appropriate action.”

Asons admitted that it had systematically attempted to present false and misleading information on an organised basis to exaggerate bills sent to AXA.

After one case in 2015 in which the firm claimed one member of staff had six years’ experience rather than two, AXA unearthed 65 further cases where Asons had inflated their legal costs with false representations about the fee earners.

As part of the settlement for the 65 claims, Asons agreed to pay AXA more than £40,000 in legal costs and almost £70,000 in damages and interest.

Asons said that they took the matter “very seriously” and had reported it to the regulator, as well as undertaking an internal investigation and introducing new procedures to prevent a repeat.

The law firm is also at the centre of a huge row over a £300,000 grant it received from Bolton Council to help redevelop its new offices in Churchgate, as revealed in The Bolton News last year.

Opposition councillors are continuing to demand answers on what due diligence the council carried out before awarding the grant under emergency powers.

Cllr Roger Hayes, Liberal Democrat group leader, has submitted a number of questions on the subject to tonight’s Corporate and External Issues Scrutiny Committee, to which the council will provide written answers.

He said: “We still want to see what sensible checking the council did of Asons’ performance and what potential risks there would be in giving the grant to this company.

“We want to know what due diligence was done and how the company’s performance is being monitored, because the council claims that the justification for the grant was to keep employment in Bolton town centre.

“We also need to know how we might get our money back if the company were to fail. If that did happen, I would like to see us try to get our money back.”

The meeting, at which the council’s budget and the region’s devolution process will also be discussed, is being held at the Queens Park Pavilion at 5.30pm.

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