SRA warns that firms risk missing COLPs and COFAs approvals deadline

SRA warns that firms risk missing COLPs and COFAs approvals deadline

The SRA has warned that several hundred firms could start the New Year without having their compliance officers in place.

It would appear that whilst the majority of the profession – well above 90 percent – have been fully co-operative with the nominations process, a significant number of firms, largely in the small firm category (up to four partners), have failed either to complete the process or even start it, whilst a number had nominated individuals who would not, for various reasons, be approved.

Samantha Barass, Executive Director of Education and Training, Supervision, Authorisation and International Affairs, said:

” We estimate that several hundred firms will not have a COLP and COFA in place by 31 December 2012. All these firms will be in breach of their licensing conditions or practice regulations.

“Appointing COLPs and COFAs is not an administrative exercise, nor optional. Firms have a regulatory obligation to appoint them.

“These roles are an integral part of our move to outcomes-focused regulation. They are key to building confidence that firms will take responsibility for managing risks to their delivery of competent and ethical legal services – because the best protection for clients is well-run, ethical firms.

“It is not putting it too strongly to say that the success of OFR depends on the profession working with us to ensure these roles operate effectively.”

The SRA is currently engaging with firms that have not yet completed the nomination process, or who have nominated unsuitable individuals and their priority for the next three or so weeks is to get as many COLPs and COFAs as possible in place by 1 January.

The SRA have stated that they will be “taking proportionate enforcement action against those who failed, without good reason, to meet the deadlines set in the nomination process, or who failed to disclose information when they were required to do so. Serious cases of non-disclosure will be dealt with accordingly and initial enforcement action has already commenced in respect of firms who have so far failed to complete the nomination process.”

Those who have not yet been contacted by the SRA and whose nomination was submitted before 31 July, can take the view that ‘no news is good news’ and they will receive their approval before 31 December.

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