Former Volkswagen Financial Services general counsel Jeremy Bouch has been fined by the Solicitors Regulation Authority following an investigation into conflicts.
Bouch resigned from Volkswagen in August 2019 after over three years at the company following an internal disciplinary investigation, and according to his LinkedIn profile, is now lead legal counsel at Barclays.
The outcome of the U.K. industry regulator’s investigation resulted in Bouch receiving a £2,000 fine, ordered to pay the £600 costs of the investigation and publication of the agreement.
Bouch was tasked with resolving criminal summonses that had occurred while Volkswagen had engaged a third-party to complete work processing Notices of Intended Prosecution in respect of the company’s lease vehicles.
He employed an external firm to resolve the matter but prior to work beginning, the firm informed Bouch it didn’t have sufficient staff to conduct the work.
As a result Bouch suggested his close relative, a solicitor at the firm, could assist with them.
According to the SRA records, the firm submitted two invoices which appeared “excessive” with no breakdown of the work undertaken, to a total of £95,150 excluding VAT. Bouch approved both payments without disclosing to Volkswagen that his close relative was working on the matter and their fees were included within the invoices.
The SRA did not specify the firm involved. One person with knowledge of the situation said the the watchdog did not take any action against the law firm because it did not have evidence that the invoices were excessive.
Bouch subsequently cancelled the arrangement in June 2019, Volkswagen began a disciplinary investigation, and Bouch resigned.
The SRA found he had caused or allowed an “own interest conflict” to arise and imposed “the maximum financial penalty internally available to the SRA” of £2,000.
Bouch, VW, and Barclays did not respond to requests for comment.
The SRA is seeking to overhaul its fining power when it comes to tackling misconduct in the U.K. legal industry. The SRA is consulting on plans which could see it increase misconduct fines for law firms and individual solicitors from a maximum of £2,000 to £25,000.