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Increased Fining Powers for SRA Now in Place
August 30, 2022

1. Introduction

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has changed the maximum fine the SRA can issue to “traditional” firms and those working within them. Legislation now in effect means that the regulator can directly issue fines of up to £25,000, up from the previous limit of £2,000.

 

2. The New Fining Powers

The updated approach to issuing financial penalties to law firms and solicitors who fall short of the expected professional standards follows an announcement released in May this year. You can read our previous article, with more information on the new fining powers here:

SRA Confirms new power to impose £25,000 fines

On the new legislation, the SRA said, We will apply this change to all cases where we consider a fine is appropriate, except for those where we have already sent a notice to the respondent proposing to refer the case to an SRA adjudicator or the SDT. For fairness and consistency, those cases will continue to be dealt with as set out in the notice – unless we are able to agree a regulatory settlement in which the respondent agrees the case against them, including the appropriate level of fine, up to the new level.”

Regarding cases that can be referred the to Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) the regulator said,

“As now, if we consider that a higher fine is justified, we can refer the matter to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) for it to consider imposing a financial penalty of an unlimited amount. We may also refer a matter to the SDT in the public interest, even where a fine within our powers is appropriate. This might, for example, be because there is a material dispute over the facts that can only be resolved by a hearing, or because there are connected allegations that are more serious.”

The regulator will continue to apply their Enforcement Strategy,  their approach to financial penalties guidance and any relevant topic guides in determining the appropriate level of fine in each individual case. Read the full statement here

www.sra.org.uk/statement-fining-powers

 

3. Law Firm Support and Compliance

The Strategic Partner’s support services and packaged compliance solutions for law firms enables our clients to achieve a compliant status, and we continue to work with them on an ongoing basis to ensure they stay compliant. This includes compliance with the AML Regulations 2017.

This allows the owners and staff to focus on services for their clients and running the firm knowing that their regulatory obligations and AML requirements are taken care of.

Our focus is to ensure each firm that works with us operates in a fully compliant environment and stays there. Through achieving this, the compliance officers in the business can be assured and confident that their obligations are being met, enabling them to focus on other areas of the firm.

 

3.1 Our Services

If you believe your firm may be at risk or wish to confirm your firm is achieving the required standard, at The Strategic Partner, we offer a range of solutions.

  • Regulation 21 AML 2017 Independent Audit– A review of the firm’s approach to regulation and compliance to include AML procedures with the audit meeting the requirements of Regulation 21 of the AML 2017. The output of which provides the firm with a written gap analysis and solutions to remedy any issues that rise and ensure the firm is compliant, find out more
  • Training – Our typical AML Training includes:
    • AML Training for ALL staff to meet the firm’s obligation to provide annual training.
    • 1-2-1 training for the MLRO and MLCO on their obligations and requirements.
    • Practical training for those involved in client onboarding to ensure their ID and AML checks are correctly completed.
  • File Revies/Auditing– At TSP we engage with firms undertaking files reviews where we consider procedure, staff, systems and files to ensure the procedures are up to the required standard and being implemented at case level with a report of the outcome.

 

3.2 Our Packaged Compliance Solutions

Implementation of robust solutions to ensure the firm achieves compliance and then maintains compliance through the provision of ongoing support and assistance: –

  • 3.2.1 Risk Regulation & compliance Service including AML  – Our Risk, Regulation and Compliance Service (including AML) has been designed to provide law firms of all sizes with a compliant environment. We provide bespoke policies and procedures for how your firm works, whilst drawing your attention to any gaps in your risk and compliance activities, whilst drawing your attention to any gaps in your risk and compliance activities. We work with firms of all sizes and types, from partnerships to ABSs, high street firms, and multinational firms. Each firm is different, and whilst there is a commonality of regulation and expected standards, it is essential to recognise how a firm implements compliance to tailor the solution to each firm’s working practices.

 

  • 3.2.2 Risk, Compliance, AML Guidance and Register Administration Service– Running a compliant law firm is not just about implementing a set of policies and procedures; the obligations of the Compliance Officers stretch way beyond this, as there is an ongoing responsibility to manage, maintain and monitor the application of the firm’s compliance strategy. The Strategic Partner’s Risk, Compliance, AML Guidance and Register Administration Service is an outsource solution providing all staff with access to an experienced and knowledgeable Compliance Manager for guidance and ensuring the regulatory requirement active management of the firm’s registers is met.

 

3.3 SRA Investigations

Our immediate focus is to work with firms to ensure they are compliant and therefore avoid investigations but that is not always possible.

If you have been contacted by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to advise of an enquiry or investigation you should contact our SRA Investigation Response Helpline for immediate guidance on 020 3947 3699. Calling us will enable quick and decisive action to be taken.

Being investigated by the SRA is a very worrying time for law firms, their owners and staff and it is not always immediately apparent why an investigation has commenced.

At The Strategic Partner we offer support to law firms and their staff at the commencement and throughout any investigation by the SRA. We will work with you to understand the issue and guide you on the best course of action to take.

Find out more about our SRA Investigation support services.

 

4. Get in touch with our compliance team

We would be pleased to discuss your current approach to regulation and compliance and how our services will assist you in ensuring your firm is protected.

Often expert advice and guidance is essential to ensure your firm achieves a compliant status and maintains it.

For more information about our Regulation and Compliance Services (including Anti Money Laundering), you can call us on 0203 911 9710 or please email us at info@thestrategicpartner.co.uk

 

View and download the PDF of this article here.

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