Alastair Dobbie is a consultant solicitor to Shortlands Law Firm Ltd. The ‘About Us’ page of the Shortlands website describes the service that Shortlands provides to its clients [LINK HERE].
Over the last 10 years, Shortlands has been instructed in over (10000) cases. Founded in 2004 by Principal Shabana Walayat, Shortlands is recognized for representing high net worth individuals in the UK and abroad, with a special focus on complex cases where children and wealth need to be protected. For people who lead busy lives, Shortlands helps you understand your grounds for divorce or separation and offer you solutions that best meet your needs, emotionally and financially…….
Since 2004 we have grown our team of expert lawyers, all of whom have extensive experience in working with some of the most complex divorce cases in the UK and abroad involving financial disputes and child care arrangements.
The page also shows the team members, including Alastair Dobbie. He is the one without an image and with no information about him. It is clear that Shortlands specialises in divorce and separations. It is therefore surprising to find Shortlands offering advice on corporate insolvency and property law to victims of investment scams.
Alastair Dobbie has teamed up with a sales agent called Roberto Pancaldi to offer advice and assistance to victims of investment scams. You can read a bit about their activities in relation to Qualiacare in our earlier article [LINK]. The Dobbie-Pancaldi team has persuaded investors in four scams to instruct them, but they have not told the truth to those investors and there has not been full disclosure of their involvement and status.
As a sales agent for the scams, Roberto Pancaldi has access to other sales agents and their client details. He persuades sales agents to introduce their investors and then makes a sales pitch detailing why investors need the services of Alastair Dobbie. The usual format is:
I am an investor in this project, just like you. I’m facing the same kinds of losses that you are. I’ve got a great lawyer who will look after your interests. Unfortunately, you need to pay him now because time is pressing and you’ll be in trouble if you wait.
I’m going to establish ‘investor groups’ led by you guys. All you have to do is send out whatever you are given, but send it out as if it has come from you because other investors are more likely to join up if the letter comes from another investor. The communications will not be signed so please put your name to them.
Unfortunately, many investors pay up. A Qualiacare investor told us he joined out of fear because the letter said he had no time and he needed to pay immediately if he wanted to be represented. More than 200 people were persuaded to join up in this manner. The same is true of Carlauren investors who were misled into paying fees as quickly as possible.
However…. ROBERTO PANCALDI WAS NOT TELLING THE TRUTH. He is not an investor in any of these scams. He is not registered as a room owner in any of them and he has not paid for any room lease.
One St Camillus investor who has been recruited as “an investor co-ordinator” challenged us. He was adamant that Roberto Pancaldi owns a hotel room at No.7 La Tour Hotel (a St Camillus hotel). He told us that Pancaldi’s company owned the room. We had to explain that the company which owns a room at that hotel is Marcnico Ltd. The company director is Roberto Pancaldi, but all the shares are owned by two Italian investors. Roberto Pancaldi doesn’t own the company and he never paid any money for the room. The two Italian investors paid for their room and Roberto Pancaldi was paid commission by St Camillus for selling it to them. Commission is normally between 10% – 15% paid to the bottom link in the commission chain, but typically works out around 30% when all the other links in the sales agent chain are taken into account. There is evidence of such high commission rates being paid in hotel room and care home room scams.
Roberto Pancaldi operates his own sales company called SocInvest. Here’s a link to the website [LINK HERE]. It’s still advertising hotel rooms for sale. On the website he offers to establish UK Limited companies for investors and to be their company director. He says it can be easier and have tax advantages for overseas investors. That’s what has happened in Marcnico Ltd.
The important point is that Roberto Pancaldi has not lost any money to these scams. He lies to investors to get them to sign up and he deceives innocent investors into acting as recruiters for the highly questionable ‘lease protection / legal representation’ service which we believe does not result in any greater recovery for investors. Surely the point of any legal representation in an investment scam is that by paying the solicitor the client has the potential to recover more money. If the client has no financial benefit why would they pay for, or need, the legal service ? They would just be increasing their losses.
We recently wrote an article on St Camillus Investors [LINK HERE]. We described how Roberto Pancaldi organised a Zoom meeting attended by Alastair Dobbie and more than 30 investors. The investors were asked to pay £580 per room so that Alastair Dobbie could give advice on the insolvency of the St Camillus companies. A lot of investors paid up. However, thanks to our article exposing this behaviour the demand for £580 from new investors was dropped. Those who had paid did not receive a refund.
Qualiacare investors are being asked to pay more money towards “a fighting fund” although, with the Financial Conduct Authority already having intervened in the Qualia scam and taking action to protect investors, it’s not clear who Alastair Dobbie intends to fight ! If it’s the FCA I think investors should think twice before paying any more money. Carlauren investors face similar requests to pay extra money into the pot.
In the St Camillus article we mentioned the company where Roberto Pancaldi is a nominee director (Marcnico Ltd – LINK HERE). This company was incorporated so that the two Italian investors could buy a room in one of the Northern Powerhouse Developments properties. This was one of the earliest room scams. We mentioned the existence of a charge registered against the company [LINK HERE]. If the VIEW PDF link is selected it will show on page 3 that the charge was registered by B&M Law. We did not think that was important at the time, but it is now. Four years later the same two investors were sold a room at St Camillus No.7 La Tour hotel and they used their company Marcnico Ltd to make that purchase.
We know Roberto Pancaldi sold rooms for several scams including NPD, Carlauren, Qualiacare and St Camillus. In every case those investors used B&M Law as their legal advisers to make the purchases.
What do we know about Alastair Dobbie ? We know that he became a solicitor in 2014. We know that he was originally a ‘consultant solicitor’ at Feltons Solicitors LLP and that his contract was cancelled. Feltons refused to pay him on the grounds that his work was sub-standard and had to be redone by the owner of the firm. They described it as being “of no value to the firm”. A report on the Tribunal can be found via this link [LINK HERE].
We can get a very good idea of Alastair Dobbie’s employment history from his own LinkedIn page [LINK HERE]. Obviously, this page was written by Alastair Dobbie so you would expect the section titled ‘EXPERIENCE’ to be a full history. He describes his time at Feltons. He states he was there from October 2010 until September 2016. He then describes taking up a position as consultant solicitor with Shortlands Law Firm in the same month he left Feltons, which is where he remains to this day.
Well, that’s very odd indeed because Alastair Dobbies’ LinkedIn profile doesn’t tie up with the employment status described on the Solicitors Regulation Authority website. Here is the SRA entry [LINK HERE]. This shows that Alastair Dobbie is registered as a consultant solicitor with TWO law firms. One of them is Shortlands Law Firm. The other is B&M Law – the law firm which provided legal services to investors to enable them to buy rooms in the scam investments. If the SRA is correct, which we believe it is, then Alastair Dobbie has chosen not to mention his role with B&M Law on his Linkedin profile. That’s not surprising because it would ring alarm bells with investors.
We thought it would be sensible to check the B&M Law website [LINK HERE]. There he is. Same as the Shortlands page. His name is listed as a team member but there is no image and no information.
So, just to recap.
1. Alastair Dobbie is listed as a consultant solicitor to B&M Law. This law firm acted for investors in NPD, Carlauren, Qualiacare and St Camillus, going as far back as 2015.
2. It is alleged that these schemes were unregulated collective investment schemes and were therefore unlawful. The FCA have intervened in Qualiacare and have made that allegation against the Qualia companies. If proven, investors may have claims against the law firms which acted for them. This would include B&M Law. They may also have claims against individual solicitors and sales agents.
3. Roberto Pancaldi has made statements to investors that he is a room owner and is facing large losses, yet he doesn’t own any rooms. He introduces Alastair Dobbie to investors as a solicitor who can help them.
4. Alastair Dobbie has not declared his involvement with B&M Law, does not list it on his LinkedIn page and has not commented on Roberto Pancaldi’s claims to own rooms. It’s fair to assume that Alastair Dobbie would know whether or not Roberto Pancaldi owned any rooms. If he knew, should he have made it clear to investors that Roberto Pancaldi was not a genuine room owner ? We think he should.
5. Investors are told to hurry up and pay because time is against them.
6. We don’t know if NPD investors have been asked to pay more, but we know that both Carlauren and Qualiacare investors have been asked to make further payments.
What does a sales agent do when the scams collapse and room sales are no longer possible ? He looks for another money-making scheme. We think Roberto Pancaldi has found one.
At the beginning of March we received a letter from Shortlands Law Firm. We responded as follows:
We have investors who signed up with Alastair Dobbie in some of his actions out of fear. That was how one investor described it to us. They were told their leases were at risk when they were not.
We presume that is the purpose of the ‘co-ordinator’ letters i.e to suggest to investors that all will be lost unless they pay Shortlands and they must do so almost immediately.
We regard Mr Dobbie’s involvement as simply a means to generate fees from investors who have already fallen victim to the unlawful sales efforts of some of your existing clients. Under FSMA it is unlawful to be involved in the formation, promotion, sale or operation of a UCIS.
We consider it to be a serious omission and breach of your duty to clients not to make them aware that the FCA allegations made in the Qualiacare case, if proven, would entitle clients to compensation from sales agents, some of whom are also your clients and who have the role of ‘investor co-ordinators’ under the Pancaldi/Dobbie structure. That also applies in Carlauren, NPD and now St Camillus.
We believe you must make that clear to all your clients immediately. Please confirm that you will do so.
We did not receive a reply and we know that investors were not informed. At that time we did not know of Alastair Dobbie’s involvement with B&M Law which makes our comments even more relevant.
A Qualiacare investor has confirmed that Alastair Dobbie’s advice to the investor group keeps changing. He feels that Mr Dobbie is not competent to give advice on insolvency or property matters and has stated his intention to write to Shortlands de-instructing the company and demanding a full refund. We have some more questions which we are putting to Shortlands today. We believe investors should also ask more questions of Alastair Dobbie and their ‘investor co-ordinators’. Our questions to Shortlands are:
1. Were you aware that Alastair Dobbie is a consultant solicitor with B&M Law ?
2. Were you aware that B&M Law was involved in the sale of leases to investors in the Northern Powerhouse Developments, Carlauren, Qualiacare and St Camillus scams when you began approaching investors to offer legal services ?
3. Are you aware of the SRA Warnings that law firms should not get involved in high-risk investments, including the sale of hotel rooms, and that law firms and lawyers who do get involved could be liable to compensate investors for their losses ?
4. If the answer to any of the above is Yes, please can you explain the level of Mr Dobbie’s involvement at B&M Law, the duties he performed and why this was not communicated to the victims of scams before they instructed your law firm. Do you regard Alastair Dobbie as having a conflict of interest ?
5. Has Alastair Dobbie or Shortlands notified the investor groups that legal advisers who were negligent in their advice to clients can be liable to compensate investors and that may include a law firm associated with Alastair Dobbie, and even Alastair Dobbie himself ?
6. Does Alastair Dobbie and/or Shortlands have any financial arrangement with Roberto Pancaldi or any of his companies to pay him any commissions, introduction fees or any other compensation relating to the introduction of clients or to the provision of services related to investments ? If so, why has this not been declared to investors who have made financial contributions for recovery action services ? If such an arrangement exists and has not been declared to clients this would raise serious questions as to the honesty and integrity of the people involved.
7. Are any parties paid any commission, introduction fee or other compensation and if so, which parties ?
8. Is it acceptable for Alastair Dobbie to write letters to investors and not sign them ? Are you aware of any occasions where he has done this ? Investors who have been duped into becoming ‘investor co-ordinators’ are being asked to send out letters under their own name when those letters were not written by them.
9. In light of the information in this article do you feel that Shortlands should now self-report to the SRA requesting them to investigate ?
We have noticed that any correspondence to Marcnico Ltd goes to Roberto Pancaldi, not the two shareholders. We have also noticed that the email addresses for individual investors who bought through Socinvest have contact emails with the word ‘socinvest’ in them. This would suggest that all communications to investors who bought through Roberto Pancaldi are going to him. It is entirely possible that those investors may never be made aware of their legal positions in respect of compensation claims against the sales agent and the law firm they used.
Our advice to investors remains the same. If an investor feels it necessary to take legal advice on insolvency matters they should consult a specialist insolvency lawyer who knows what they are doing. It makes much more sense.
Qualiacare investors have paid £1,000 each for the services of Alastair Dobbie. Roberto Pancaldi has told them that there are at least 230 investors in the group. That’s a nice payday. We have a feeling that a lot of investors will want answers.
We still find it very surprising that Shortlands Law Firm would have allowed its name to be used in such a way if it had been in possession of the full facts. Investment scams are very far removed from Family Law, a field in which Shortlands has very good reputation.
We know the names of all the “investor co-ordinators” but will not publish them. It is unclear as to which ones are genuine investors and which have been strategically inserted. If any investor feels there was not full disclosure by Alastair Dobbie and that they were misled into becoming clients of Shortlands, they should ask for their money back.
Legal actions are already underway for investors in other property-related scams who used either Gordon Brown Law Firm [LINK] or Maxwell Alves Solicitors [LINK] or TQ Property Law [LINK]. These companies were heavily involved in offering legal services to investors in hotel room and care home room scams.