Ex Pompey director guilty of misconduct

Mark Jacob
Mark Jacob
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POMPEY’S former executive director Mark Jacob has been fined thousands of pounds along with two solicitors and a top law firm for professional misconduct involving the club.

Law firm Fuglers, who Mr Jacob worked for, were fined a total of £80,000 and ordered to pay £60,000 costs at a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

The tribunal found against Mr Jacob, who was Pompey’s executive director when it became the first Premier League team to go into administration in February 2010.

It also fined two partners at Fuglers, David Berens and Bryan Fugler, over improper use of the law firm’s client account to provide banking services for the club.

Mr Jacob, 45, was also found guilty of being in breach of an undertaking involving VAT and a promise of payments to investors seeking increased security on their loans to Pompey.

The case was brought by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which polices the profession, after a routine inspection of Fuglers’ accounts in 2010.

The tribunal heard that the three solicitors used the Fuglers account containing their clients’ money to help to pay football creditors and non-football creditors during the period when Portsmouth were owned by a consortium of Middle Eastern businessmen led by Ali Al Faraj, who has never been seen in Portsmouth, between October 2009 and February 2010.

But the law firm was not authorised to act as a bank and was only supposed to use the client account for payments for legal services.

Mr Jacob, who received a salary from Fuglers and not from Portsmouth, decided who should be paid and who should not be paid.

But he had no powers to unlock the payments from the client account. That was controlled by Mr Fugler and Mr Berens, the two senior partners at Fuglers who acted as signatories, the tribunal heard.

At the tribunal Fuglers was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £37,500 costs. Mr Berens was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £15,000 costs, while Mr Fugler and Mr Jacob were each fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £3,750 costs.

In mitigation, Ian Ryan, representing Mr Jacob, said his client had been under extreme pressure from members of the consortium investing in the club when he had breached a solicitors’ undertaking.

In August 2010, the High Court heard that in December 2009 Mr Jacob gave a solicitors’ undertaking that he would send a tranche of Premier League television money to Portpin, an investment vehicle run by his clients Balram Chainrai and Levi Kushnir, who had loaned money to Pompey. But the Premier League insisted that the money went to football creditors instead and when he revealed his previous undertaking to Portpin, the Premier League directed the money straight to football creditors instead.

Despite being executive director of Pompey and representing the Ali Al Faraj-led consortium, it has also been claimed that Mr Jacob also represented Portpin.

But the tribunal rejected an accusation of conflict of interest after finding that the allegation had been ‘inadequately pleaded’.

The solicitors were also cleared of acting recklessly.