SSB victims group expresses concern over regulators’ investigations

SSB: Frustration with SRA

The SSB Victims Support Group has expressed concern about the way the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is conducting its investigation into the collapsed Sheffield law firm.

It also questioned the independence of the Legal Services Board (LSB), which is investigating the SRA’s actions in the lead-up to SSB going into administration.

Speaking to Legal Futures following campaigners’ meeting with MPs, Debra Sofia Magdalene, administrator of the SSB Victims Support Group, said they were “deeply concerned” about the SRA’s response and the way SSB client files have been transferred to other firms.

“We want to see the SSB investigation report and an explanation for why no action had been taken. Many victims are angry that they didn’t pick up on SSB’s negligence.

“It’s interesting to note that LSB is investigating SRA and concerning to note that LSB is funded by a levy on the bodies they regulate and SRA is funded by legal firms they regulate. How can this be ‘independent’?”

Ms Magdalene said she has spoken to one former SSB client who had suffered “a panic attack after receiving a sudden request from the SRA for a phone interview”.

She explained: “This random selection process of people who received adverse costs [orders] has caused significant distress, especially since the SRA warned she might need to appear in court or on Zoom. She is traumatised enough as it is.

“Other victims who have filed complaints with the SRA have not been contacted for an interview, which adds to their frustration.

“This whole SSB and SRA fiasco has left a high proportion of victims in our support group traumatised and afraid to appoint another solicitor as all faith has been lost in the legal system.”

An SRA spokesman said: “We understand how upsetting this entire situation is for clients of SSB. We have been contacting a number of them to support our investigation so that we can take action against any solicitors involved who may have behaved inappropriately.

“We are also working urgently with other regulators and organisations to explore all possible avenues for redress.

“Evidence from clients is crucial to our enquiries, but we recognise the sensitivities involved. We would like to work with the support group to make sure we can discuss their concerns, update them on progress, and ensure we get our approach right.”

An LSB spokesman said: “We are deeply concerned about the impact of SSB Group Limited’s collapse and understand how devasting it is for victims. Our review of the events and steps or actions taken by the SRA is underway, and we have been in touch with the SSB support group to let them know that victims will be invited to provide information.”

He pointed out that it was using Carson McDowell, a non-SRA-regulated law firm based in Belfast, to support its review.

“The Legal Services Board was established by the Legal Service Act 2007 to ensure regulation is independent of the profession. Our board is squarely focused on the public interest and consumer protection.

“Our funding through a compulsory statutory levy means assessments we make of regulators’ performance don’t affect our budget, and so don’t influence our judgement. We are committed to ensuring a thorough and impartial investigation to ensure regulators learn from this case.”

Separately, the LSB today published the scope of its review. In a letter to SRA chief executive Paul Philip, LSB general counsel Danielle Viall said the aim was to identify whether the SRA acted “effectively, adequately and efficiently”, whether it took all of the steps it could have taken – including a focus on its supervision of the firm – and “whether the SRA’s acts or omissions in this matter necessitates changes in its procedure to mitigate the possibility of a similar situation arising again”.

Ms Viall said the LSB would require a copy of all documents held by the SRA which relate to its regulation of, and any investigations into, SSB Group.

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