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Co-op axes English and Welsh sole practitioners

5 October 2009

Co-operative Financial Services (CFS), owner of the Britannia Building Society, today carried out its threat to axe 3,600 sole practitioners in England and Wales from its conveyancing panel.

However, CFS announced an extended stay of execution for solicitors in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Their law societies have until 21 October to give the company “appropriate reassurance” about their compensation fund arrangements.

Mike Fairbairn, CFS director of risk, said the Law Society of Scotland was considering giving the required reassurance.

“CFS has not been able to achieve the same reassurance from the Law Society in England and Wales and as such all sole practitioners in this jurisdiction will be removed from the CFS mortgage panel with effect from 5 October 2009,” he said.

“We fully understand the disappointment this will cause amongst the English and Welsh Law Society and their sole practitioner members, but our duty rests clearly with our members and it is with their interests in mind, that this decision has been taken.

“We are, in effect, being asked to assume risks in relation to sole practitioner fraud that should properly lie with the profession itself.”

Fairbairn added that sole practitioners made up less than five per cent of the legal services required by CFS for its mortgage business, but the company was unable to secure insurance to cover it against sole practitioner fraud.

The Law Society said it was “dismayed” by the decision to axe the sole practitioners.

“We consider this decision belies CFS’s claim that they are committed to leading the way on ethical and community matters,” Robert Heslett, president of the society, said.

He warned that the move “could well contribute to putting several thousand solicitors’ livelihoods and the livelihoods of their employees at risk”.

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Discrimination Conveyancing Education