Several hundred firms face having their authorisation revoked for failing to appoint acceptable compliance officers, the Solicitors Regulation Authority said today.
In its first formal statement of disappointment at the profession’s response to the requirement to appoint compliance officers for legal practice and for finance and administration (COLPs and COFAs) the authority said that around 250 firms have failed to complete the process – or even to start it.
On top of this ‘a sizeable number of firms’ have nominated individuals who will not be approved, the SRA said.
About 84% of the 10,000 SRA-regulated firms have successfully nominated individuals to take up their compliance officer roles on 1 January. Samantha Barrass, executive director, said that the number was higher than had been expected a few weeks ago.
‘It is disappointing, however, that while the vast majority of firms have met their regulatory requirements and completed the process, as required, there is still a number who have not,’ she said.
‘These firms have no foreseeable prospect of COLPs and COFAs in place, either on, or shortly after 1 January, and will be in breach of their licence conditions or practising regulations on that date. Where firms have not co-operated with us, we will take action to revoke their authorisation.’
Barrass told solicitors last week that she had been 'surprised by the extent of non-compliance' by firms in the process.
She also said that firms still awaiting approval from the SRA should not worry, provided they had submitted their nominations accurately and on time. If neither the firm nor their nominees have heard from the SRA requesting further investigation, they can expect to receive their approval by 31 December, she said.
‘There are also some firms which came very late to the process for a variety of reasons, or have delayed in providing us with further information where requested.
‘These firms know who they are and, so long as they and/or their nominees provide us with all the information we have told them we need, we anticipate being able to make a decision early in the new year,’ she said.