LSB calls in Northern Irish law firm to assist with SRA Axiom probe

Carson McDowell: Biggest commercial law firm in Northern Ireland

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has retained a Northern Irish law firm to assist with its review of regulatory events leading up to the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) intervention into Axiom Ince.

The oversight regulator has confirmed the independent investigation, after chief executive Matthew Hill revealed its plans for one to MPs on the justice select committee earlier this month.

In a statement yesterday, the LSB said: “This was a significant case with considerable consumer detriment. In the board’s view, it will be important for public and professional confidence that any learning can be identified with independence, and that any conclusions that may be drawn are based on an objective assessment of the facts.”

The full terms of reference of the review will be published next month, with the aim of reporting in the spring. “The LSB is grateful to the SRA for making clear its intention to co-operate fully with this review,” the statement added.

Carson McDowell has been brought on board to assist as it is not regulated by the SRA. It is Northern Ireland’s largest commercial law firm, with 34 partners and over 200 staff operating from Belfast and Dublin.

Among its 28 practice areas is a governance, risk and compliance department, as well as a regulatory and professional discipline department.

Critics have questioned whether failures at the SRA meant that the disappearance of £66m from Axiom Ince’s client account was spotted too late.

Law Society chief executive Ian Jeffery welcomed the review, saying: “As the oversight body responsible for assessing and monitoring effective and transparent regulatory performance, the LSB has the necessary investigation and enforcement powers to ensure that the events and actions relating to this very serious incident are fully brought to light.

“We stand ready to work with the LSB and, as appropriate, the SRA to ensure that all proper assurance is provided to the public and to our members.”

The LSB has never before held a review in relation to a specific event of this nature.

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