The Law Society of England and Wales has hit back at proposals by the Solicitors Regulation Authority that could see fines for misconduct at major law firms dramatically increased.
In a statement on Friday Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce disagreed with proposals by the regulator to increase misconduct fines for law firms and individual solicitors from a maximum of £2,000 to £25,000, saying the amount “isn’t appropriate.”
“We appreciate that increasing its internal fining threshold moderately would assist the SRA in making decisions in a greater number of straight forward cases. However, increasing its fining powers by more than 12 times the current limit isn’t appropriate,” she said in a statement on Friday.
“Our members have concerns about the SRA acting as investigator, prosecutor and judge without independent scrutiny.
“We suggest a more appropriate rise – based on statistical data from the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal – would be somewhere between £5,000 to £7,500, based on analysis of previous fines imposed over the last three years.”
The SRA announced a consultation on the proposals in November 2021.
Along with the potential increases in fine, other considerations under consultation include being able to implement a range of ‘fixed penalties’ of up to £1,500 so “more minor issues can be dealt with easily”; and for the regulator to “take into account the turnover or income of firms and individuals when setting fines”, to allow different measures to be taken depending on the senior or equity status of a lawyer.
Several high profile SRA investigations have occurred in recent years. Baker McKenzie former London head Gary Senior paid costs of £55,000 after being found to have committed serious professional misconduct, while DWF financial management executive Matthew Unwin was banned from the profession in March 2021 over alleged sexual harassment.