The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has imposed conditions on PricewaterhouseCoopers’ new alternative business structure (ABS) licence to ensure that lawyers working for the ‘big four’ firm continue to observe key principles of conduct when handling unreserved work.
PwC announced a fortnight ago that it would absorb PwC Legal, switching from the law firm’s previous strategy of being a standalone law firm. The SRA has also had to grant several waivers to achieve this.
PwC’s two previous ABS licences have been cancelled and replaced with a new one that extends SRA requirements to PwC lawyers engaged in unreserved legal work.
It says that such lawyers should not act for a client where there is a conflict of interest unless the client has given informed consent and “appropriate safeguards can be put in place that are consistent with the SRA Principles and maintain the confidentiality of the affairs of that client”.
PwC has also been told that it must inform the regulator in the event that it, or any part of its business, ceases to be regulated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), and/or becomes the subject of any regulatory proceedings or sanctions by the ICAEW or any other regulator.
The waivers disapply the requirement that providers of outsourced services to PwC should be subject to a contractual obligation that would enable the SRA to “obtain information from, inspect the records of, or enter the premises of, the third party, in relation to the outsourced activities or functions”.
They also mean that the SRA does not need to approve regular PwC partners who are not involved in the day-to-day management of the legal services business, and that it does not need to secure additional indemnity insurance.