Accountant’s reports safe from public exposure after FoI ruling


Law Society: FoI exemption applied

The Law Society’s freedom of information adjudicator has rejected a bid to open up public access to accountant’s reports submitted to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

The decision by Richard Eyre follows a member of the public’s bid to see a particular firm’s accounts, which was rejected by the Law Society and then sent on to adjudication.

The society argued that accounts should fall within section 14.5 of its freedom of information code, which entitles the regulator to withhold them because they are information which is “about specific investigations, disciplinary cases or applications arising from [its] regulatory role”.

In his adjudication, Mr Eyre said that not everything a firm submits to the SRA to satisfy the regulator’s duty of supervision must become a public document.

“There may be a public interest in all such information being generally available, but there may be a range of strong competing interests too – not least, in the case of financial information, commercial confidentiality,” he said, adding that commercial confidentiality cannot necessarily be protected merely by redacting personal data from published accounts.

Mr Eyre ruled: “It is the duty of the SRA to satisfy itself, from all the information it may obtain in an investigation or in the discharge of its wider regulatory responsibilities, that a firm is operating lawfully and in accordance with all regulatory requirements. That information clearly falls within section 14.5 of the code.

“There cannot be a general obligation to make all that information publicly available, and the public interest would not be well served by such an obligation. Nor, in this case, have I seen any particular reason to believe there would be a public interest in the accounts being published in this case.”




Leave a Comment

By clicking Submit you consent to Legal Futures storing your personal data and confirm you have read our Privacy Policy and section 5 of our Terms & Conditions which deals with user-generated content. All comments will be moderated before posting.

Required fields are marked *
Email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog


Law firms’ cost focus will drive financial innovation in the sector

What the pandemic has brought into sharp focus for firms is a desire to reduce costs. In 2019, research found cost reductions were last on a long list of priorities for firms; now they are near the top.


How burnout was my catalyst for serving lawyers instead of being one

As my legal career progressed, I began to realise the reality was very different than I had envisaged. I was in a constant state of stress, working very long hours. I normalised the stress, as it seemed to be everywhere I looked.


Loading animation