More than 600 law firms and individuals have so far had their cards marked by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) over failures associated with the nomination of compliance officers, it has emerged.
A further 139 investigations remain live, with 16 firms still to nominate their compliance officers.
The SRA’s regulatory risk committee heard yesterday that enforcement action had concluded in 825 of the 964 files that had been opened.
The four broad areas of non-compliance were a delay in nominating, failure to disclose suitability issues (the largest category), delay in providing the SRA with information required to complete the nomination process, and ongoing failure to nominate compliance officers.
Some 13 files have now been the subject of finding and warning decisions by SRA adjudicators, with associated costs orders. A further 195 resulted in formal letters of advice, and 402 in less formal ‘Dear senior partner’ letters.
In 215 cases, the SRA decided that no further action was required, either due to a lack of evidence or because a satisfactory response had been received from the firm.
Jennifer Johnson, the SRA’s head of legal and enforcement, told the committee that the remaining investigations are becoming “increasingly resource intensive as they each require a significant level of desk and field-based investigation to establish the reasons for the lack of co-operation or persistent failure to comply with the requirement to have compliance officers in place at each firm”.
The aim is to complete the majority of the enforcement work by the end of September, but some may take longer if, for example, interventions result because firms have had their authorisation revoked.
There is also the likelihood of new cases emerging, Ms Johnson said. There are currently 13 firms identified as having nominated compliance officers but whose applications have been refused. Some have appealed unsuccessfully, others have refused to re-nominate, have nobody else suitable to nominate or are simply prevaricating.