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Compliance Manager Software COLPs, COFAs and SRA Sanctions – 650 and counting 14.03.2013 Following on from the SRA’s warning earlier this year that solicitors who failed to disclose relevant information about their past on compliance officer applications could have their licences removed; and their plans to pursue hundreds of applicants who failed to declare facts such as criminal convictions or a previous bankruptcy, the SRA have now announced that enforcement action has started against almost 650 solicitors or firms that failed to complete their compliance officer nominations properly. Antony Townsend, chief executive of the SRA, said action was necessary after a ‘concerning and disappointing’ level of non-co-operation and non-disclosure in nominating compliance officers. More than 300 firms have nominations outstanding and a further 118 have not completed nominations for officers for legal practice (COLP) or finance and administration (COFA). A total of 9,463 nominations have been approved. In addition Townsend confirmed that 448 cases had been opened against individuals who failed to disclose information relevant to the nomination. A further 200 cases are now open against individuals or firms that failed to co-operate with the SRA either in not nominating or failing to provide the right information. Townsend said: ‘We have previously stated our intention to adopt a robust approach to enforcement in order to establish a credible deterrent to future non-co-operation and nondisclosure.’ Sanctions could include a warning, a rebuke, a fine of up to £2,000 or referral to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. The SRA’s report on compliance officer applications said non-declaration could constitute a failure to act with integrity and harm public confidence in legal services. Commenting on the news, Nigel Harper, MD of Compliance Manager UK, stated that ‘he feared that all the signs in the market are that the OFR regime has yet to be taken seriously by many law firms and that this robust stance by the SRA is a clear indication that any failure to comply with the rigorous demands of the 2011 Handbook and Code will be met with enforcement of the considerable sanctions available to the regulatory authorities’. Expanding on this theme, Nigel goes on to explain that ‘although the market has been fully


aware of the introduction of OFR for over two years this reluctance to accept the changing face of compliance by many will hurt; all the signs are that the sanctions regime is beginning to bite and that serious pain is around the corner for those who simply will not move with the times.’

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COLPs, COFAs and SRA Sanctions – 650 and counting ...