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Townsend attacks solicitors for ‘non-cooperation’ on COLPs and COFAs

118 firms fail to nominate compliance officers 

13 March 2013

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Antony Townsend, chief executive of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), has attacked solicitors for their “non-cooperation and non-disclosure” over COLP and COFA applications, which he described as “concerning and disappointing”.

He did so as the regulator for law firms in England and Wales revealed that it was taking enforcement action to deal with 448 cases of failing to disclose information relevant to nominations and 200 cases of not nominating COLPs and COFAs or failing to provide information.

In his chief executive’s report for this morning’s SRA board meeting, Townsend said the SRA had approved compliance officer nominations by 9,463 firms.

While 118 firms had not completed the nomination process, a further 307 had outstanding nominations, for a variety of reasons. These included ‘suitability issues’, unknown or declared, ‘personal verification fails’ and ‘data issues’.

“We have previously stated our intention to adopt a robust approach to enforcement in order to establish a credible deterrent to future non-cooperation and non-disclosure,” Townsend said.

“In addition, those firms that do not have an approved COLP and COFA will be at risk of proceedings to revoke their licence/recognition as a sole practitioner.”

The chief executive also warned that the SRA was “seeing an increase in firms in financial difficulty” and there had been a decline in the performance of the SRA’s contact centre.

Townsend said this was because of an annual upsurge in demand relating to PC renewals and an increased number of calls relating to COLPs and COFAs, among other things.

He said the regulator would respond by launching a programme of “pre-emptive recruitment”, focussing on replying to emails and stripping out “unnecessary activities”.

Townsend added: “We will continue to monitor the performance of the contact centre, but the board should be aware that it may be necessary to prioritise resources for the contact centre, or consider a temporary revision to service levels to better manage stakeholder expectations.”

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