The second string to the Bobroffs’ bow

Why has Ronald Bobroff not disclosed the existence of his firm’s fourth director?

Ronald Bobroff of personal injury law firm Ronald Bobroff & Partners (RBP) may have lied about the number of directors of his company.

Company records listed by CIPC show that Tony Berlowitz was appointed as a fourth director of the company in November 2013, despite several subsequent adamant statements by Bobroff himself that the company only has three directors.

Berlowitz is a close friend of Bobroff. He is a Johannesburg-based attorney and also the vice-chairman of the South African Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (Saapil), a body Bobroff chairs.

The RBP directors are widely listed as being Bobroff, his son Darren and Stephen Bezuidenhout.

Neither RBP’s letterhead nor its website nor the Law Society of the Northern Provinces (LSNP) website reflects Berlowitz as being a director of- or attorney at RBP.

Enquiries made by Moneyweb with the LSNP records department last week reveal that no Attorneys Fidelity Fund Certificate – a requirement in terms of the Attorneys Act – has been issued to Berlowitz to practice at RBP.

Documents in Moneyweb’s possession suggest that Berlowitz has never operated as an attorney from RBP’s premises.

The Attorneys Act requires that all directors must be shareholders of professional companies and it also removes any of the protection from liability that the directors of ordinary companies might have. It is not known what Berlowitz’s equity stake in RBP is.

Bobroff has on several occasions stated to Moneyweb that RBP only has three directors, and that Moneyweb is waging a vendetta against the firm. In an email Bobroff sent to this journalist last year he says: “As you well know, the Practice of RBP Inc comprises three Directors, being Ronald Bobroff, Stephan Bezuidenhout (an integral part of the Practice since 1976), and Darren Bobroff.” In a separate email on August 14 2014 he said: “Mr Bezuidenhout is Senior to Darren Bobroff in the Practice, having been with same since 1976….” Read the two statements here.

Response

Bobroff did not respond to questions about Berlowitz’s undisclosed directorship of the company, but rather attacked this journalist and Moneyweb. He responded as follows to a draft version of this article that was emailed to him: “We have previously informed you that we are not prepared to edit your diatribes, and that you and your employers are obliged to ensure that material published is true and in accordance with the press code and the law.

“We therefore will not dignify your latest efforts at ‘journalism’ with comment.”

Bezuidenhout responded by requesting ten days in which to respond.  On day ten he responded by saying that we should direct all enquiries to Ronald Bobroff.

No response was received at the time of publication from Tony Berlowitz, the LSNP or the Attorneys Fidelity Fund.

Directors’ liability

It is uncertain why Bobroff has not publicly disclosed Berlowitz’s directorshipIt also comes at a very challenging time for RBP as the firm has been on the receiving end of several court cases that ruled that its controversial common law contingency fee agreements are illegal.

These agreements provided the guidelines for the fees RBP charged its clients following upon a successful claim against the Road Accident Fund (RAF).  The Constitutional Court’s decision in February last year paved the way for RBP’s former clients to claim back the fees charged that were in excess of an ordinary attorney-client fee.

Read Bobroff’s contingency regime unlawful

This may have much more impact on the firm than the mere refunding of overcharged fees. It may also lead to disciplinary action which could include the striking off of Bobroff and the other RBP directors from the Roll of Attorneys, which means that they would not be able to practice law in South Africa.

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