Solicitors fail to meet new COLP|COFA nominations deadline
Posted on August 1st, 2012 by Jeremy Barnett
LegalFutures have reported that around 750 firms have failed to meet the 31 July deadline for COLP ( compliance officer for legal compliance) and COFA (compliance officer for finance and administration) nominations, thus facing possible disciplinary action by the SRA.
Lega lFutures issue 1st August 2012 reported that the SRA have said that 'During August, the SRA will be engaging with those few firms who have not yet nominated a COLP or COFA, to resolve any difficulties they may have had in meeting the deadline'.
This brings into question the issue as to whether or not the SRA have yet formed a policy on non compliance, a pattern that is being repeated following the recent clamp down on solicitors and firms who have failed to repay their ARP premiums, many months after the misconduct took place.
In an earlier interview with Legal Futures, SRA executive director, Samantha Barrass indicated that 'how much of a stick will be weilded 'with firms that have not met the deadline to appoint suitable officers, will depend on whether or not the firms have begun the process or failed to engage at all', taking a similar line as is currently being observed with those who wish to apply for a waiver from their ARP obligations.
The SRA website provides full information as the application procedure and sets out the following guidance.
'Ultimately, failure to nominate and have an approved COLP and COFA is a serious matter, and could result in revocation of a firm's authorisation and the closure of the firm. But this is the most serious scenario, and is not an outcome that we want to result from this process, except as a last resort.'
The firm must discuss the nomination with the candidates and ensure that they discuss suitability to become compliance officers with the firm prior to their appointment.They also have to sign a declaration whether they have ever been subject to or are currently facing any of the matters listed in sections 1, 3- 6 and 10 of the SRA Suitabiltiy Test. This demands a high level of honestly, integrity and professionalism, expected by the public, other stakeholders and and professionals, and does not pose a risk to the public or the profession. This test is also applicable to non solicitors who must meet the same high standards the public expect of the profession.
This test makes it clear that the SRA is likely to refuse an application where there has been a conviction for a criminal offence, and may take a similar step where there has been a police caution, warning, Police Notice for Disorder, a final warning or reprimand or a referral order. Serious motoring offences that result in a criminal conviction must be disclosed.
It is also clear that an application will be refused where there is evidence that the applicant can not manage his/her finances properly, where there has been deliberate avoidance of debts. Where there has been and IVA some time ago, the SRA will look to see evidence that creditors have been repaid, or you were affected by exceptional circumstances beyond your control which you could not have reasonably forseen.' Similar provisions are to be applied when an application for a waiver is made in respect of unpaid ARP premiums ( although hardship other than exceptional hardship is specifically excluded as a reason for relief in those circumstances).
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