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COLPs and COFAs must report material breaches to the SRA "immediately"

But Samantha Barrass says the SRA has "resisted" market pressure to produce detailed guidance on material breaches

18 October 2012

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

COLPs and COFAs must report material breaches in their firm’s compliance with outcomes-focused regulations to the Solicitors Regulation Authority immediately, executive director Samantha Barrass said at Managing Partner’s COLP and COFA conference 2012 today.

“The COLP and COFA requirements for material breaches are clear – report them to the SRA immediately,” she said.

Barrass noted that the legal regulator for England and Wales has produced some “high-level guidance” on the areas that compliance officers will need to consider in making reporting decisions.

However, she added that the regulator has “resisted” market pressure to produce more detailed guidance on breaches, for the following reasons.

“First, we do believe well-run firms should be able to use their own judgement on what constitutes risk and a serious breach.

“Second, providing detailed prescription on what is and isn’t a material breach is a fool’s errand. If you're wondering whether or not a breach is material, then it probably means it is material.

“Moreover, we are always happy to have a conversation in the context of any particular issue, to advise on whether the matter is something we need to know about.”

Barrass said that compliance officers should report failures in their firm’s compliance to their dedicated point of contact in the regulatory supervision team, which should be in place by March/April 2013. They can also contact the regulator by post, phone and email.

Issues concerning fraud and dishonesty should be reported on the “red alert line”, she noted.

“Perhaps a good rule of thumb is that if you are unsure, it is probably worth letting us know,” said Barrass.

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