Disclosure Obligations to the SRA
Advice to solicitors
A key part of my practice is the provision of advice to solicitors and firms faced with circumstances that may require disclosure to the SRA.
This may form part of the duties imposed on a COLP or a COFA, but could be any misconduct that affects the firm or its employees, partners or directors.
Misconduct is often “discovered” and can be a deeply unpleasant surprise. I have encountered many instances where it has been a chance discovery of behaviour well hidden by someone acting dishonestly for their own benefit and it needs dealing with promptly and positively.
Firms often face uncertainty when discovering something that needs reporting. There is always concern about the implications for the firm as a whole and the last thing anyone wants is for misconduct by one person to lead to a full scale investigation of the firm.
The obligation is to report serious misconduct promptly, and obtaining help from outside the firm to do this can be invaluable. I can advise what constitutes serious misconduct, and how it should be reported. I can advise what steps the firm should take to protect its interests whilst complying with its professional obligations. In serious instances you may have police or clients to deal with. Whilst you get on with your practice, I can address the regulatory issues.
The obligation to report is not confined to serious misconduct. Firms must notify the SRA promptly of any material changes to its circumstances and these include:
- serious financial difficulty
- action taken against the firm or any individuals by another regulator or the Ombudsman;
- action taken by police, particularly if charged with criminal offences;
- serious failure to comply with or achieve the Principles, Rules, Outcomes and other requirements of the Handbook.
Once a report has been made, the SRA will decide what to do.
If more information is needed the SRA will obtain this by telephone or email, or by on site investigation. It can require the production of documents and information, and so it can be a challenging process.
Once the SRA has the information its requires it may close the matter or start a formal investigation. Early dealings with the SRA can determine the outcome weeks or months later.
I can provide advice and guidance on what needs to be disclosed and how it should be done so that you continue to comply with your regulatory obligations, and to avoid the damage spreading any further than it needs to.