Practice and Procedure

Hundreds of firms fail to nominate compliance officers

PUBLISHED August 1, 2012

Wednesday 01 August 2012 by Catherine Baksi

Some 800 law firms failed to nominate compliance officers for legal practice (COLPs) and compliance officers for finance and administration (COFAs) by yesterday's deadline, the Solicitors Regulation Authority has revealed today.

These two roles are a key part of the SRA's move to outcomes-focused regulation (OFR), which was introduced last October. They are responsible for ensuring that firms have suitable systems and controls in place to comply with the new regulatory requirements.

While responsibility for this compliance rests with the firm, its managers or the sole practitioner, the compliance officers must ensure compliance, and are responsible for recording and reporting failures in compliance.

Nominations opened on 31 May and closed yesterday. The SRA announced today that 93% of the 11,000 regulated law firms and sole practitioners in England and Wales have either completed the nomination process or are in the final stages of doing so.

The regulator said that over the next month it will be 'engaging' with those - 7% of all firms - that have not yet nominated a COLP or COFA, to help resolve any difficulties they have had in completing the process.

The SRA has until 31 December to assess and process the applications. Approved COLPs and COFAs will then be required to take up their roles from 1 January 2013.

SRA chief executive Antony Townsend said: 'When we introduced OFR, we moved away from the focus on prescribed rules to concentrate on what outcomes we want for the consumer and for the sector as a whole.'

He added: 'The appointment of COLPs and COFAs is key to this new regime and we're delighted to be in the position of assessing nominations.'

Further information on COLPs and COFAs is available on the SRA's website.