A B.C. lawyer who misappropriated trust funds and failed to remit GST and PST collected from clients to fund personal financial difficulties has been disbarred by the Law Society of BC.
Andrew Yat-Cheung Lau will no longer be able to practice law in B.C. following a hearing panel ruling issued April 6. The panel found Lau had committed professional misconduct in relation to six allegations.
Lau collected tax payments from clients but failed to remit the funds to the Canada Revenue Agency and the B.C. Ministry of Finance, between March 2016 and November 2019. He also failed to remit a trust administration fee to the society, the panel noted.
Furthermore, Lau “misappropriated $14,336 held in trust on behalf of his clients, by withdrawing funds from trust for the payment of his fees when he had not rendered any or sufficient legal services to justify the withdrawal.”
“The most serious finding” was Lau’s “misappropriated trust funds and particularly that he engaged in conduct that was akin to theft,” stated the panel ruling.
The panel noted Lau eventually paid the amounts he owed. Lau told the panel he eventually performed legal services related to his trust fund withdrawals.
Lau’s “behaviour for each of the allegations in the Citation met the test of a marked departure from the standard the Law Society expects of lawyers,” stated the panel.
Lau attempted to defend his actions by claiming to society investigators (who have the power to compel lawyers to hand over any information related to their firm) that he had personal and financial difficulties.
Lau was issued a citation on Dec. 1, 2020 and became a former member of the society on Jan. 1, 2021 for failing to pay membership fees. He subsequently never filed any responding material with respect to the society’s application against him nor did he submit materials during the facts and determination hearing.
Since approximately February 2011, Lau practiced as a sole practitioner in the areas of residential real estate, civil litigation, corporate and commercial law, and wills and estates and in the name of Andrew Lau Law Corporation in Vancouver.
The society self-governs the actions of lawyers and as such the panel stated, “The public must have confidence in the legal profession and in the ability of the Law Society to self-regulate the legal profession.”