The demise of Davenport Lyons

THE BACKGROUND: Davenport Lyons had a deserved bad reputation as bullying solicitors because of their harassment of innocent people. Two solicitors from the firm were fined and suspended by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal after being exposed by both the BBC's Watchdog programme and the consumer magazine Which?

The complaint was originally brought in 2008 by Which? magazine after it accused Davenport Lyons of using "excessive" and "bullying" conduct. It saw the Davenport Lyons tactics as little above blackmail and filed a complaint with the UK's Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Which? complained to the SRA in 2008 that Davenport Lyons partner David Gore and former partner Brian Miller had engaged in ‘bullying’ and ‘excessive’ conduct, while acting on behalf of client copyright holders.

Following an investigation in 2011, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) fined and suspended two Davenport Lyons lawyers after they were found guilty of six breaches of the Solicitors' Code of Conduct. This was because of them sending more than 6,000 intimidating letters to individuals they accused of illegal file-sharing.

In the Tribunal's Judgment (case reference: 10619/2010) it says:
"They [the solicitors] became in thrall to the scheme and what they perceived to be the driving imperative to make it profitable for themselves and their Firm."

One pensioner managed to get a grovelling apology from D-L.

THE BIG QUESTION: Our understanding is that Davenport Lyons was a partnership and, as is normal, it is likely that each partner will have taken a share of any accumulated profits. So was the money that was improperly obtained by the shocking bullying of vulnerable innocent people returned to them, or was it divided up by the Firm - that is, between the Davenport Lyons' partners? In short, did the solicitors profit as the Tribunal stated?

Jewish Family Life and Customs (A Practical Guide) is a pamphlet produced by the Family Law Group of the Board of Deputies.
It gives information to solicitors and others concerning the requirements of practising Jews in the United Kingdom. It states:
"Jewish tradition highlights the importance of family ties and only by maintaining contact with both parents will the child be able to sustain relationships with both sets of grandparents and other relatives."

This picture typifies the multi-generational family relationships the Jewish Board of Deputies advocates.

Click photo for more information.

This has serious moral implications because at least one partner sits on the Jewish Board of Deputies, a lobby organization which represents a minority section of the community and often pronounces on matters of basic human rights and common decency (see panel right). A former president was the Labour peer Greville Janner who was accused of a string of child sex abuse offences. Even though he was suffering from Alzheimer's he managed to attend the House of Lords daily and claimed more than £100,000 in expenses in the four years after he was diagnosed with the disease. His daughter, Laura Janner-Klausner, the Senior Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism, had complained about the then Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks's absence from the 1998 funeral of the Reform leader Rabbi Hugo Gryn. In 2013, she herself was rebuked for declining to attend Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, because of her dislike of the former prime minister’s politics. (see Janner-Klausner 'wrong' over Thatcher funeral)

More than one Board deputy (and in 2018 the president) is a member of the West London Synagogue. In former times it was the leading synagogue of the reform movement when it was under the stewardship of such luminaries as the late rabbis Dr. Werner van der Zyl and his successor Hugo Gryn. Latterly the leadership has left a lot to be desired. The present incumbent is Rabbi Julia Neuberger (picture left), also a Liberal Democrat peer who became embroiled in the MPs expenses scandal. She claimed £78,000, asserting that her main home was in Leamington Spa and not her nearby London town-house, which is conveniently close to both the House of Lords and the synagogue. In 2011 another peer, Lord Taylor of Warwick, was jailed for a year for falsely claiming more than £11,000 in expenses for travelling from a residence in Oxford while actually living in Ealing, West London. Read how 'Absurd' rules allow expenses fiddling peers to dodge justice.

In July 2015 new laws were brought in which allowed peers to expel colleagues for misconduct. The Baroness/Rabbi felt qualified to pontificate on the lack of morality in Britain in her book The Moral State We're in. But an anguished grandmother, who had fled Nazi persecution as a child, and wanted desperately to speak to Rabbi Neuberger about being denied contact with her own grandchildren who attended the synagogue, was not impressed when her concerns were brusquely dismissed. Is the Rabbi unaware of the traditions and values required of practicing Jews - especially the members of the Jewish Board of Deputies who espouse them? The Rabbi was a guest speaker at the Jewish Book Week 2016, where she discussed love, loss and depression, grief and the human condition. What did she say about refugee grandparents who grieve for the grandchildren they are not allowed to see?

A critical spotlight fell on the Reform movement after the Jewish Chronicle reported on allegations of bullying and inappropriate behaviour by Rabbi David Mitchell, who was appointed to lead West London Synagogue (WLS), "the movement’s flagship shul". Read more

Amazingly, Davenport Lyons had been solicitors to the Movement for Reform Judaism, a religious organisation which purports, on its website, to uphold "a life of integrity based on a process of informed decision making". (Picture below, former Chairman Robert Weiner.) Did they not carry out a due diligence investigation? And in February 2009, a JABE seminar (Jewish Association for Business Ethics) which focused on business ethical issues was hosted by ... yes, that's right - Davenport Lyons. Hmmmm!
In summing up, Dayan Abraham (a member of the London Beth Din) impressed on the audience the importance of Sanctifying God's name (Kiddush Hashem) in everything we do and that means acting properly and being seen to act properly at all times. Well that message was obviously lost on Davenport Lyons. There seems to be an ethical vacuum at the core of these institutions and growing numbers of the Jewish community are bewildered by the abandonment of moral values.
... Britain's high-achieving business community has a special obligation to live up to the highest standards in their financial affairs in accordance with the Talmud's strong code of business ethics.
Alex Brummer (ex deputy)
JABE was set up to encourage integrity in professional conduct and teach Jewish ethical approaches to business, but closed in 2013 due to a lack of funding.

In April 2014 Davenport Lyons entered into administration after running up £13.4 millions in debts. It was acquired by the smaller law firm Gordon Dadds. Surprisingly, David Gore, one of the two solicitors fined and suspended by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for their part in sending intimidating letters to innocent individuals, was retained as a consultant with the new firm. Several others, who were partners at Davenport Lyons partners, have been downgraded to consultants. A highly respected London solicitor and former vice-president of the Board of Deputies - now retired and honoured for his public services - wondered why any of the D-L partners would have been taken on.

Avoiding bankruptcy where possible should be regarded as a moral issue
as well as a financial one.
A meeting of creditors was held in London on 4 July 2014. A pre-pack administration scheme was used - an insolvency process that leaves creditors out of pocket. Unsecured creditors were to be offered as little as 10p in the pound on outstanding debts. This included £1.3m to HM Revenue & Customs, more than £6m to the Royal Bank of Scotland, £2.3m to landlords and £2.3m to trade creditors. There was also an outstanding £770,000 owed for professional indemnity insurance. Scores of other creditors were left with a legacy of hardship, while those culpable for much of the financial ineptitude walked away without censure; all this was legal, but shameful.

Bankruptcy is not a concept relevant to either Jewish or Islamic law. Once debts have been incurred, they must be paid. From a Jewish law perspective, so long as debts incurred can be paid off by an insurance policy and no party is left uncompensated, the duty on a firm to pay customers (creditors) can be satisfied and discharged. But did any of the Davenport Lyons partners offer voluntary payments to alleviate the losses the creditors suffered? Were moral considerations disregarded?

Our investigations revealed that a North London property, where a former D-L partner lived with her second husband, could not be sold because of a charge imposed by the Bank of Scotland. The Bank was the biggest creditor and would take all necessary steps to recover the huge sum owed to it. A registered charge secured on a property restricts the sale until discharged by the chargee upon payment of the final redemption fee. Trustees from were appointed.

According to insiders, some D-L employees were angered because they felt they had been kept in the dark about the administration process. If any of those who lost their jobs at Davenport Lyons would like to speak to us, please contact us in the first instance.

Find out more about the Davenport-Lyons debacle by following these links:

Case Study - Partnership Administration of Davenport Lyons June 2016

Davenport Lyons creditors set for talks over £13.4m debt. 26 June 2014

Notice of Corporate Insolvency - Meetings of Creditors 20 June 2104

Law firm Davenport Lyons sold via pre-pack 10 June 2104

Disgruntled ex-Davenport Lyons employee vandalises office 16 May 2014

Who actually benefits from law firm mergers? 8 May 2014

Shock of the new for Davenport 5 May 2014

That which is hateful to you,
do not do to your fellow.
That is the whole Torah;
the rest is the explanation;
go and learn
Hillel the Elder
Davenport Lyons collapses 02 May 2014

Disarray: The story behind the Davenport Lyons "reverse takeover" by Gordon Dadds 29 April 2014

Gordon Dadds buys Davenport Lyons out of administration 28 April 2014

Davenport Lyons enters administration 28 April 2014

Davenport Lyons: we are not on the verge of administration 11 March 2014

Howard Kennedy FSI abandons merger with Davenport Lyons 27 February 2014

Howard KennedyFsi mulls second London merger as it considers Davenport takeover 25 February 2014

Davenport Lyons and Howard Kennedy FSI in merger talks 14 February 2014

Shakespeares calls off merger talks with Davenport Lyons 30 January 2014

Two solicitors accused over file-sharing 'bully tactics' (The Law Society Gazette)

Which goes after Davenport Lyons

Davenport Lyons Solicitors - an independent review. (Yelp)

Davenport Lyons (Wikipedia)

Davenport Lyons lawyers fined and suspended (Hermes project)

Davenport Lyons lawyers suspended by SDT for causing "intimidation". (The Lawyer, August 2011)

[A rabbi] must not only teach Judaism and provide leadership to the religious institutions of Judaism, he/she must personally reflect the values and the ways of the faith that he/she wishes to instill in others.
     To Be A Jew - A Guide to Jewish Observance in Contemporary Life
by Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin.

Estranged grandparents speak to the Jewish Chronicle on day of action to highlight their plight, which afflicts so many Jewish families. (By Rosa Doherty, JC September 6, 2019) PDF version

News Miscellany

New links will be added as the site is updated.

Guest of honour Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh chats with Nikki van der Zyl and President Henry Grunwald at the Board of Deputies Annual Dinner 2004.

Letters to the Board's President,
Mrs Marie van der Zyl. (PDFs)
1 ~ 2 ~ 3 ~ 4 ~ 5 ~ 6 ~ 7 ~ 8
9 ~ 10 ~ 11 ~ 12 ~ 13 ~ 14 ~ 15
16 ~ 17 ~ 18 ~ 19 ~ 20 ~ 21
22 ~ 23 ~ 24 ~ 25 ~ 26 ~ 27
28 ~ 29 ~ 30 ~ 31 ~ 32 ~ 33

* President accused of using antisemitic trope 27/10/18
* Board leader censured 09/11/18
* Board in trouble 22/11/18
* Board lambasted by Roslyn Pine
* Board criticised over Jerusalem tweet 17/12/18
* President has screaming tantrum 07/01/19
* President criticised over praise for Theresa May 03/06/19
* Board misguided and wrong-headed says JC 20/06/19
* President fails to censure call for Corbyn to be 'sacrificed' 20/07/19
* President fawns over Boris 01/08/19
* Board accussed of 'slur' over Shoah memorial. 12/08/19
* President rebuked over offensive opinion 23/08/19
* Board should be transparent JC 17/01/20
* President in dispute with JLC leader Jonathan Goldstein JC 20/03/20

The Most Common CV Lie
is ... ?

Find out.

A tribute to a remarkable Rabbi, seen here with his grandson Darrell van der Zyl.
Survivors' grandchildren vow to continue their educational legacy. JC Jan 2020

What lessons (if any) have been learnt from Auschwitz?

Dealing with family racism

Both claimed to have studied at a university in Liverpool. One did and failed, the other went to a polytechnic. Find out who ....

Sisella Bok, defines a lie as: an intentionally deceptive message in the form of a statement.

WLS and Reform Judaism cover-up over allegations.

What Trustees need to know

Opposition to Holocaust Memorial

Berlin Exhibition dedicated to the van der Zyl family history.
Family Insights
Conversations with Judith Kramer
Liverpool Polytechnic graduate is proud of her alma mater.
Read about Ms Kaye's conversion.
Submission to the Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, 2014.
Auschwitz Remembered

... or a reward for failure? Read about Partnership Voluntary Arrangements (PVAs).

... examines the range of crimes in which solicitors become involved

The Tower of London’s Jewish links. (Jewish News Online)
New series
The few who stood up against Hitler - coming soon.

Labour adopts IHRA code on antisemitism after weeks of protest and arguments.
Photo courtesy of CITY A.M.

Progressively Speaking

Joseph Finlay outlines a truly democratic alternative.
An open letter to the Board of Deputies from Jewish people.

Anyone, other than Nikki van der Zyl or Kerry van der Zyl, who claims to be the daughter or granddaughter of Rabbi Dr Werner van der Zyl the founder of the Leo Baeck College in North London, is a Betrüger (deceiver). If you know of anyone practising this deception, please report it.

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