After a month of research into the finances of the Dutch lawyer Bram Moszkowicz, the Dean of the Amsterdam Bar Association recently announced that Bram Moszkowicz will be summoned before the disciplinary judge. Bram Moszkowicz is accused of accepting cash payments from his clients of at least 15,000 euro, while he systematically did not report such transactions to the Bar Association. The ‘Wet ter voorkoming van witwassen en financieren van terrorisme’ (law prohibiting money laundering and financing of terrorism) obliges institutions, in this case lawyers, to report payments in cash for the delivery of services.
Last Tuesday (September 18, 2012), the Dean of the Amsterdam Bar Association, Germ Kemper, asked the Disciplinary Council to suspend Bram Moszkowicz for one year, six months of which provisional. According to Germ Kemper, Bram Moszkowicz breached article 1 of the Gedragscode 1992 (the rules of conduct for Dutch lawyers). This article states that a lawyer must behave in such a way that the trust in the legal profession will not be damaged. By neglecting his obligation to report cash payments of at least 15,000 euro (among other things), Bram Moszkowicz damaged the trust in his own profession. Germ Kemper even states that the lawyer is incompetent for the legal profession because of his systematic disrespect towards his clients and the rules of conduct for lawyers.
Bram Moszkowicz himself did not go to court last Tuesday, one of the lawyers from his office represented him. Meanwhile, the lawyer did speak to the media and gave his opinion on this case, and in particular his opinion on Germ Kemper: ‘this is unworthy of the Dean of the Bar Association’. As a result of this and other improper reactions by the Dean of the Bar Association, Bram Moszkowicz is considering filing a complaint. The case would be a test case based on revenge, because the lawyer made a (public) remark on a verdict by the Amsterdam Court of first instance. According to Bram Moszkowicz, the financial situation of the majority of other lawyers is not under scrutiny.
If I understand these statements by the lawyer correctly, the Amsterdam Bar Association only summoned Bram Moszkowicz as an act of revenge, nothing more and nothing less. But maybe there is another purpose to (t)his trial before the Disciplinary Council. Recently, the Bar Association came up with a motion in which they proposed to tighten the financial supervision. If the ‘College van Afgevaardigden’ (the council’s parliament) accepts this motion, six financial experts will support the Local Bar Associations by investigating the financial situation of lawyers. In addition, one day after Moszkowicz’s case came up before the Disciplinary Council, the Bar Association announced another alteration. The duty to report cash payments is insufficient. All cash payments should be prohibited, and only in special circumstances would certain exceptions be possible up to a maximum amount of 2,000 euro.
Apparently, the financial situation of lawyers caught the Bar Association’s attention. Would all this arise from an act of revenge against the lawyer Bram Moszkowicz? I would suggest otherwise. Last summer, news got out that the supervision of the legal profession would be revised. There will be a new, independent, board of supervision. Members cannot be a lawyer and they will not be chosen by lawyers. At the moment, the Council of Ministers has approved this motion. So maybe, just maybe, this trial has not (only) something to do with some childish revenge actions. Maybe the Bar Association is sending out a (public) message: ‘lawyers can supervise other lawyers properly’.