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Half of law firms waiting for compliance officer approval

SRA targets 400 firms that have not yet notified their compliance officer arrangements

4 December 2012

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Only 5,000 firms have had compliance officers confirmed after the SRA completed its first round of approvals last week.

With less than a month to go before the deadline for appointments, the SRA is working against the clock to ensure that another 5,600 or so firms receive their confirmation notices.

The regulator is also poised to send reminders to about 400 firms which haven’t yet sent details of their compliance officer arrangements.

“We are disappointed that, despite repeated requests, some firms have still not nominated nearly four months after the final deadline,” said SRA executive director Samantha Barrass.

“While we will have to undertake proportionate enforcement action in these cases, our principal aim is to ensure that as many firms as possible have approved COLPs and COFAs in place by the end of the year,” Barrass added.

She went on: “The first part of this action will involve an ‘explanation with warning’ letter, which will be sent to the firms that have not yet adequately explained why there is no record of their completed nomination. We very much hope that this process will bring down the numbers of outstanding nominations.”

Firms failing to appoint COLPs or COFAs by 31 December will technically be in breach of their regulatory obligations and could be reprimanded or fined, or, in the worse cases, have their licence revoked.

The SRA will continue to send out approval notifications between now and the end of the year using its self-declaration system and expects to complete confirmations within the time limit.

Approvals will be sent by email to the officers appointed and to the firm’s authorised signatory and a random sample of firms has been selected to test the SRA’s self-declaration process.

In addition, 700 practices which the SRA has identified as a risk will be “subject to further scrutiny”.

The SRA said it was also engaging with firms where “significant suitability issues” have been identified or where those nominated are not regulated by the SRA and require further background checks.

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