In the Media

SRA ponders ?250m fine limit for firms

PUBLISHED March 30, 2012

Friday 30 March 2012 by John Hyde

The Solicitors Regulation Authority is looking to close a loophole that restricts its fining powers for firms other than alternative business structures.

The Legal Services Act 2007 allows the SRA to fine ABSs up to £250m, compared with a limit of £2,000 for traditional law firms.

The regulator asked in a public consultation in 2010 whether it should be able to impose the same level of fine for equivalent misconduct.

With the first ABSs licensed by the SRA this week, discussions are now being held with interested parties about a rule change to close the disparity, the regulator said today.

A spokesman said that 'the majority' of those who replied to the 2010 consultation said maximum fines should be aligned.

'The SRA believes there are extremely convincing policy reasons why the fining limit for traditional law firms should be increased, including the need for efficiency, fairness, consistency and delivery of a credible deterrence.'

The government has the discretion to order an increase in fining powers, and talks are being held between the SRA and Ministry of Justice.

The Law Society, Legal Services Board and Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal are set to make their own comments, with a further public consultation likely to follow if the idea is accepted.