Talking of morally bankrupt parasites, isn't there room for Doncaster solicitors Beresfords in that category ?
The men who became two of the highest-paid solicitors in Britain by mishandling the claims of almost 100,000 sick miners will be struck off after being found guilty of misconduct yesterday.
James Beresford and Douglas Smith, partners in the South Yorkshire firm Beresfords, took advantage of vulnerable miners by putting their own commercial goals before those of their clients, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal found. The company earned more than £115m under a government scheme for compensating miners with health claims, and Beresford himself made more than £16m in one year.
Eight out of 11 allegations of serious professional misconduct against the pair - including acting in a conflict of interest, failing to give adequate advice and information to clients and creating fee arrangements which were not in their best interests - were proven against them, the tribunal said.
"If ever there was a group of persons who needed the full care and attention from solicitors, it was these miners," said tribunal chairman David Leverton, adding that the miners had been vulnerable because of their "understandable inability to appreciate legal documents".
According to the Guardian, taxpayers have stumped up £6.9 billion to compensate former employees of the National Coal Board for various industrial diseases. More than half of that money has gone to lawyers. Beresfords are just the fattest vultures on the carcass.
When I first heard about this story a few years back, I wondered what the unions were doing. Surely they'd see it as part of their remit to ensure that their ex-members got a good deal - find good lawyers with reasonable fees, then recommend them ?
Beresfords has enjoyed a close working relationship with the Union of Democratic Mineworkers and Vendside, the claims-handling company owned by the union, which chose to pass on several thousand of its cases to be dealt with by the Doncaster solicitors.
And as the three leading individuals at the UDM have flourished financially, so have their friends at Beresfords.
Looks like the union are 'Democratic' as in 'Democratic Republic of Congo'. In some societies, that kind of betrayal - of your own people - would merit a firing squad.
"This has turned out to be a bonanza for solicitors," said Geoffrey Hopkinson, son of miner George Hopkinson, who died of a lung obstruction after years of inhaling coal dust in the mines. Hopkinson, whose claim was handled by Beresfords, said his family received £549.38, which he described as "derisory".If you've ever seen someone with serious lung disease, only just able to get out of a chair and move around with difficulty, oxygen mask removed for a few wheezy words then straight back on again ... and you think that the people ripped off were miners, as good people as you could ever find in Britain - for once I'm stuck for words with more than four letters.
Don't forget the 'irresponsible handouts' to the said parasites.
The tribunal heard how the scheme, which was agreed after a high court case established British Coal's liability in 1998, allowed legal costs to be claimed from the DTI, leaving the full amount of compensation for the miners themselves.
Yet Beresfords failed to inform miners they were entitled to the full amount, and deducted up to 30% as fees.
Two issues here. Obviously our fee-inflaters are among the lowest of the low, not quite there with child-murderers but somewhere just above - the vicinity of those who mug OAPs, steal charity boxes or tell a class of seven year olds that Santa doesn't exist.
But the government's well-meant announcement that client compo, whatever amount, would be net of legal fees was an inducement to said vultures to make as many claims as possible, sure that whatever the client got, they themselves would be fat. HM Treasury might as well have sent men with pockets full of our cash to walk the streets of South Yorkshire, bearing notices inviting passers-by to rip them off. Of such good intent is the road to hell paved.
UPDATE - Beresfords are apparently planning to bounce back via mysolicitor.com :
"which will screen cases submitted by users and then share the resulting workload among paying subscriber law firms.I believe ScumbagsR Us, Ambulance Chasers Inc and Fraudulent ClaimCorp are also active in the personal injury marketplace. Not to mention the personal injury solicitors who have their adverts in our local NHS casualty department - something to read while you wait ...
The business will be a direct competitor to both Injury Lawyers4U and moneysupermarket.com, according to literature provided at a conference the firm’s chief executive Mark Farrell spoke at earlier this year.
Beresfords originally sought to launch the venture this autumn, according to the pamphlet, however this has yet to take place.
The URL mysolicitor.com was registered in 2003 by Esther Beresford, believed to be Jim Beresford’s daughter Esta, who is also a lawyer at the Doncaster firm. Her ownership of the domain name will expire in 2010.