LOS ANGELES (CN) – An American-Iranian solicitor claims in Superior Court that the Law Society of England and Wales discriminates against minority solicitors, and hounded and defamed him after he advocated for reform.
Shahrokh “Sean” Mireskandari is an Iranian-born U.S. citizen and a partner in the London firm of Dean & Dean, according to his 33-page complaint.
He claims he “enjoyed a growing reputation” as a representative for minority clients before the Solicitors Regulatory Authority began to investigate him after he turned the spotlight on the regulatory arm of the Law Society.
In his 11-count complaint, Mireskandari claims that in the summer of 2007 he began to question why solicitors of black and minority ethnicity were “disproportionately investigated, censured and suspended by” the Solicitors Regulatory Authority, or SRA.
He claims he had his name dragged through the British tabloid press for his efforts.
“Plaintiff communicated his concerns to a prominent member of Parliament in August of that year, and set off a chain of events that led to the matter being debated in the House of Commons (British Parliament), with subsequent independent and damning scrutiny of the SRA’s policies, personnel and practices. Plaintiff’s intent was to bring about positive change for the growing community of BME solicitors. Instead, his actions prompted the SRA to suspend his license and destroy his reputation,” the complaint states.
A report published by Lord Herman Ouseley in August 2008 found that the SRA subjected minority solicitors to tougher regulatory oversight than their white counterparts.
“In 2007, Asian solicitors comprised 5.5 percent of the professional population, yet were the targets of 18 percent of interventions,” Mireskandari says in his complaint. “Black solicitors faced even starker disproportionality: at only 1.6 percent of the population, their lives were disrupted by 15 percent of the interventions. The report also revealed similarly biased statistics in other areas of SRA activity.”
Mireskandari also named as defendants SRA investigators Barrington Mayne and Malcolm Lees, executive director of legal and enforcement David Middleton, chief executive Antony Townsend, and adjudicator Richard Hegarty.
According to the complaint, in October 2007 an SRA investigation into Mireskandari was a “top priority.”
“Over the next year, the SRA sent investigators Barrington Mayne and Malcolm Lees on no fewer than three trips to California and Hawaii, searching for a way to discredit plaintiff,” the complaint states. “In their efforts to obtain evidence against him, defendants Mayne and Lees repeatedly defamed plaintiff, offered bribes and otherwise tampered with witnesses. On these trips they also negligently and recklessly obtained blatantly inaccurate ‘expert’ testimony upon which the SRA relied to undermine plaintiff’s credibility.”
Mireskandari claims that despite the SRA’s use of “such extraordinary and inappropriate means” it failed to uncover any wrongdoing.
But he says the investigation continued in late 2008, after the SRA leaked information about the investigation to the British tabloid The Daily Mail.
In the interim, Mireskandari had filed a 10 million British claimagainst the SRA, alleging racial discrimination.
According to his recent complaint: “Starting on September 11, 2008, the Daily Mail began publishing a series of malicious and defamatory articles concerning plaintiff. The articles contained information known only to the SRA, quoted an SRA spokesperson and reprinted a privileged letter sent to Townsend by Mr. [Keith] Vaz [a British Labour Party politician], which only his office could have disclosed. The SRA was also the only means by which the Daily Mail could have been alerted to the decision to intervene into Mr. Mireskandari’s practice, yet on the morning of that intervention the Daily Mail was waiting outside his offices ready to photograph files being removed from the premises.”
An online version of the Daily Mail article on Mireskandari is headlined: “Liar, crook, and friend of billionaires and royalty … Meet the lawyer who’s tearing the Met apart.”
The story accuses Mireskandari, among other things, of taking a “leading role” in a fraudulent telemarketing business in the early 1990s, for which he allegedly was sentenced to 3 months of community service by a Los Angeles Municipal Court. It also cites his representation of police officials in race discrimination actions against the Metropolitan Police in the UK.
In his complaint, Mireskandari claims The Daily Mail pressured the SRA to “deal with” him, and that he “then faced a sudden barrage of demands from the SRA, nearly all based on ‘evidence’ the SRA has subsequently admitted was unreliable.”
The complaint continues: “After Mr. Mireskandari left for California to prepare a response to Mayne and Lees’ supposed investigation, the SRA instigated a separate inquiry, this time demanding access to numerous client files, some of which simply did not exist because Dean & Dean had never represented any clients with those names.
“In light of the extreme time constraints emplaced by the SRA and the inherent bias of the inquiry, plaintiff had no opportunity to allay the SRA’s stated suspicions. On December 15, 2008 the SRA ‘intervened’ in Mr. Mireskandari’s practice. In the course of an ‘intervention,’ the SRA takes possession of a solicitor’s files and accounts and suspends his license, ending his practice. Since then, plaintiff has fought against considerable odds to defend his name and to demonstrate the discriminatory animus of defendants. His efforts have been impeded by the SRA’s refusal to disclose critical documents. Consequently, plaintiff has only gradually been able to appreciate the nature and scope of their wrongful acts.”
Mireskandari claims that the Law Society caused him “economic, professional and personal harm.” He says that solicitors are personally liable to the SRA for the costs of intervention, which can come to hundreds of thousands of pounds, and allegedly forces some solicitors into bankruptcy.
Mireskandari seeks damages for RICO violations, defamation, abuse of process, breach of fiduciary duty, failure to supervise, inducing breach of contract, interference with prospective economic advantage, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, violation of Unfair Competition Law, and violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act.
He is represented by Milton Grimes, of Los Angeles.
Neither Grimes nor the Law Society immediately responded to requests for comment.