Townsend: enforcement strategy delivered as promised so far

Almost half of the law firms in the assigned risks pool (ARP) still owe premiums running to millions of pounds, although the ARP enforcement strategy has encouraged some to pay up, it has emerged.

The board of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) will hear at its meeting this Friday that, as of 23 August, in all there were 214 firms in the ARP; of the 211 for which there is premium data (three firms are new into it), 109 have either paid their premiums or have confirmed payment arrangements in place.

Some 47 firms are coming to the end of the maximum two years they were allowed in the ARP (now reduced to one year for new entrants), and only 22 of them are fully paid up on their premiums.

The 62 firms who are in their first year in the pool and have outstanding premiums have been told that they need to pay them to be eligible for a second year – 85 firms in for a year have either paid or put payment arrangements in place.

According to chief executive Antony Townsend’s report to the board, eight firms have paid their premiums since the start of the strategy in July (see story). The practice standards unit has visited 88 of the firms, with a further unspecified number about which there were already regulatory concerns receiving visits from the more focused forensic investigations (FI) team. The practice standards visits have led to a further five firms being referred to FI for a more detailed visit after serious concerns were identified.

Mr Townsend said progress in implementing the enforcement strategy in line with the published timescales “has been good, with all the actions delivered on time”.

Capita, which administers the ARP, is now producing a daily report for the SRA showing premiums owed by firms.

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