Enforcement action has started against almost 650 solicitors or firms that failed to complete their compliance officer nominations properly, the Solicitors Regulation Authority revealed today.
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.
Writing in his CEO report to this week’s SRA board meeting, 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.
Nominations currently being assessed are categorised as: late nominations or re-nomination; nominations where the nominee has pending disciplinary matters preventing the SRA from making a decision; or data issues connected with nominations.
The regulator has already stated that enforcement action against individuals or firms could lead to their licence being revoked.
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 non-disclosure.’
Townsend also noted there has been a decline in the performance of the SRA contact centre against its agreed service levels.
Increased calls in January to deal with COLP and COFA queries accounted for some of the problems, along with the annual upsurge in demand relating to practising certificate renewals and staff leaving for a new NHS contact centre that has opened in Redditch.