News releases

SRA compliance officers exercise moves into new phase

The SRA has published its latest update on the approval of compliance officers.

The Board of the SRA will be informed of the latest situation in approving the nominations of Compliance Officers for Legal Practice (COLPs) and Compliance Officers for Finance and Administration (COFAs). These positions play a key role in the SRA's outcomes-focused regulation regime. (See more on COLP and COFA responsibilities and COLP-COFA nomination process.)

As at 22 January 2013 (see updated figures):

  • 9,744 firms (98.5 per cent of the total expected to nominate) have now completed the nomination process.
  • Of the completed nominations, 9,165 have now been approved—representing 94 per cent of those that completed the nomination process (of these some 200 have yet to be informed of the approval whilst we resolve issues arising from the provision of inaccurate data in the original nomination forms).
  • 579 firms who have completed their nominations have yet to have these nominations approved. This is for a range of reasons, including declarations that have required further investigation, those who have failed to disclose suitability issues subsequently identified by the SRA and nominations that were made late. Outstanding nominations continue to be progressed by the SRA and firms will be notified as these are concluded. In the vast majority of cases this will be by the end of January.
  • 152 firms have not completed their nominations in spite of repeated requests and offers of assistance, and enforcement action has now commenced against these firms.

SRA Executive Director, Samantha Barrass, commented on the approach that the SRA has taken: "In general, our strategy to achieve compliance by engaging with firms to actively seek alternative nominations, encourage completion of nominations and investigate issues that have been identified, has paid dividends. However, we are now at the stage where there are only a small proportion of outstanding approvals to be made and our focus will switch to proportionate enforcement action against those firms that have refused to nominate or other wise failed to engage appropriately with the process."

Those subject to enforcement activity fall largely into three categories:

  • Those firms who have not nominated at all or failed to co-operate with the SRA as required, and are therefore in breach of the Authorisation Rules/Practising Regulations
  • Firms who nominated individuals with significant issues relevant to the SRA Suitability Test
  • Firms who nominated individuals with significant issues relevant to the SRA Suitability Test and which were not declared despite the fact that declaration was required under the SRA Suitability Test and Rules

Samantha Barrass added: "Enforcement action will be proportionate and will range from letters of advice, fines, rebukes, through to revocation of authorisation, and referral to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. The importance of having the right people in place in these key compliance roles cannot be overestimated and we are pleased at the high levels of co-operation we have received from the great majority of firms.

"However, our efforts are now quite properly focussed on the minority of remaining firms who have failed to co-operate or engage with the SRA."

The SRA will shortly be communicating with the COLP and COFA community to advise them on the processes it is putting in place to facilitate engagement with the Authority.

Updated figures (as of 29 January 2013)

  • 9,751 firms have completed the process. Of these, 9,244 have been approved and 507 are awaiting approval.
  • 145 firms have not completed their nominations.
 
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