Economic Crime Bill: SRA to be given greater powers under new proposals
The Law Society has concerns about the government's plans
The government has announced proposals under the second Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill 2022 which will give the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) greater powers on economic crime disciplinary matters.
Law Society president, I. Stephanie Boyce, commented: “We are pleased the UK government is introducing a second Economic Crime Bill, with the express provision of stopping money laundering in the UK.
“The reforms which tackle economic crime, such as exemptions from the ‘principal money laundering offences’ – including acquiring criminal property and concealing and removing criminal property from England and Wales – will reduce unnecessary reporting by businesses to share information, while ensuring legal professional privilege is maintained”.
“The Companies House reforms will aim to improve transparency over UK companies to strengthen our business environment,” added Boyce.
“The Law Society has worked closely with Companies House and the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on the first Economic Crime Act and we have long supported changes which will improve the quality of information on the public register and look forward to continued close dialogue on the delivery of this new bill”.
However, Boyce said the Law Society was “extremely concerned” about the government’s plan to allow the SRA to impose limitless financial penalties for economic crime disciplinary matters.
“The SRA’s fining powers have only just been substantially increased in relation to traditional firms and individuals from £2,000 to £25,000.
“We are concerned about what the proposed additional powers could mean for our members and how effective they will be in combating economic crime,” explained Boyce.
“We strongly urge the government to consider carefully the proportionality of any further regulation, given that there has been little evidence of the effectiveness or otherwise of the most recent changes to the SRA’s fining powers.
“The proposed unlimited powers would potentially include many more serious or significant cases which currently go before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) and we maintain that this should remain the case.”