News release

COLPs and COFAs appointment process running smoothly

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has outlined the steady progress being made with the appointment of the key posts of Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) and Compliance Officer for Finance and Administration (COFA).

COLPs and COFAs will be a focal point in ensuring that the 11,000 or so practices in England and Wales have appropriate systems and controls in place to comply with the new regulatory requirements. Over the next two weeks, the SRA expects to approve the first tranche of COLPs and COFAs, who have been subject to verification of their suitability using predominantly automated checking of SRA data.

This is likely to number several thousands of approvals. It is also already engaging with those firms which have either disclosed suitability issues for their proposed COLP or COFA, or where those nominated are completely unknown to the SRA. Further scrutiny of some nominations will take place where the nominating firm has had issues flagged up by the SRA's risk-based assessment of the nominated individual or the firm itself.

One hundred and fifty firms will also be randomly selected to take part in a scrutiny exercise to test the validity of self-declaration as a regulatory process.

Andrew Garbutt, SRA Director of Risk, said: "The risk-based approval process has been adopted to ensure the right people take on the position of COLP or COFA. These roles are expected to play an important part in outcomes-focused regulation.

“The individuals will help build a firm-wide culture of compliance; compliance will not just be a matter for them, but for everyone within the firm.”

The authorisation of COLPs and COFAs should be completed by 31 December 2012 ahead of the officers taking up their new responsibilities on 1 January 2013. If firms have not nominated by 1 January they will be in breach of the regulations and the SRA can revoke their licence and take disciplinary action.

More than 90 per cent of all firms had nominated their COLP and COFA by the 31 July 2012 deadline, and by mid-September only around 600 had failed to start the process. The SRA will this week have to consider moving from constructive engagement to enforcement action against those who have not yet nominated their compliance officers.

Andrew Garbutt said: “We’re enormously encouraged by the response but the small number of firms who have not yet nominated their COLP/COFA must do so now. We have sent three reminders and we will be following-up with firms over the next few weeks. Nominating a COLP and COFA is a regulatory requirement and we will have to take disciplinary action if firms do not comply.”

Further information on COLPs and COFAs and OFR is available on the Freedom in Practice pages of this website

Find out more about COLPs and COFAs  

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