UK Law Firm Plans Clawback Lawsuit Targeting William Hill, Paddy Power Over Embezzled Funds
Here’s an interesting story emanating from the United Kingdom, where in a not-unforseeable development, a British law firm is threatening “clawback” lawsuits targeting prominent bookmakers William Hill and PaddyPower Betfair over a combined £1.5m lost by an addicted sports bettor who embezzled funds, then lost virtually all the money betting at the two companies. The planned lawsuits, publicly threatened by law firm Mackrell Turner Garrett, are on behalf of the victims of the publicly unnamed problem gambler,
There’s an unusual twist here, or two: The planned lawsuit against William Hill, for about £600,000, is about the company not doing enough to intervene earlier in what is, evidently, a problem-gambling and money-laundering situation. The self-admitted problem gambler (still publicly unnamed) embezzled the funds from his real-estate and property clients in Dubai.
The Guardian, a generally anti-gambling outlet, broke this tale after likely being fed the info from Mackrell Turner Garrett, which in turn is likely trying to ratchet up some public pressure after the firm’s demands for a settlement by a set deadline went unheeded. Yet this case is also being investigated by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC), and in similar cases in the past — including episodes involving William Hill and PaddyPower — the settlements invariably ordered by the UKGC force the books to refund stolen funds to any third-party victims.
According to William Hill, as the Guardian quoted, whatever investigation the UKGC is conducting appears not to be completed yet. A Hills spokesman told the outlet, “We are aware of a number of allegations by [name withheld] and have been waiting for months for them to be substantiated. We continue to await this information and note he has not been subject to any police investigation or prosecution with regards to the alleged thefts.”
Whether William Hill should make those clawback refunds before the UKGC issues its edict is very much the question at hand, though another report on this gambler’s antics suggests that the William Hill betting shops that accepted his action ignored some rather bizarre and suspicious behavior. The bettor was twice allowed to wager over £50,000 in bets during a single day, including many £1,000 wagers just moments apart on horse and greyhound races. Yet that’s not the truly squirrely part of the story: The two Hills shops seemingly allowed the bettor to leave duffelbags full of cash behind the shop counter, to be pulled out and wagered as needed. How that passes a smell test no one at William Hill is likely to answer.
William Hill is going to be spanked on this one, yet for the law firm and the victims, it’s not happening fast enough.
A variation on the same theme is central in the PaddyPower part of the story. The same gambler/embezzler is the focal point, but here PaddyPower has already been fined for its failure to properly police the bettor’s activities. Remember the story about the head of the charitable dog-rescue mission who embezzled about £900,000 from his charity, blowing most of that at Paddy? The UKGC slapped Paddy with a £2.2 million penalty, with two main elements: a £500,000 compensation payment to be split among one or more of the original victims of the five cases brought to the UKGC’s attention, and a £1.7 million payment to GambleAware, the UK problem-gambling initiative.
That dog-mission embezzler, Simon Price, was one of the two main parts of this case; according to the Guardian‘s piece, this unnamed Dubai-based embezzler was the other. But if that’s true, then the settlement ordered against Paddy did not set aside sufficient funds for this person’s victims. Yet there’s another problem here that the Guardian piece utterly (and likely intentionally) omits: If the money was stolen in Dubai, then the UKGC cannot order refunds to the victims from the UK. International law doesn’t work that way.
The Guardian piece offers this: “In a letter to the addict, the Gambling Commission confirmed that a portion of the settlement relates to information he had provided about his own gambling. But his victims say that Paddy Power has not compensated them for their losses.” Nor has William Hill, most likely. But this is also why the £1.7 million was likely to be ordered paid to GambleAware, so that Paddy would still not profit from the episode, despite the international twist to the story.
There’s yet another problem with this whole story as told from the Guardian‘s hate-the-sportsbooks perspective. The outlet’s report claims that he has yet to be charged, in part because he voluntarily came forward and sought treatment for his addiction. That’s good and all, but it shouldn’t be a free pass, or else that would become the status quo: Embezzlers would fee free to commit the crimes, gamble the funds away, then turn themselves in. While getting treatment is commendable, there still has to be some punitive measure involved for someone who stole over £1.5 million. Despite the Guardian‘s keenness to blame the sportsbooks, there has to be some measure of self-responsibility, too.