CRCS Legal December 2023 Newsletter

Complaint Resolution Compliance Solutions

Welcome to our December newsletter. ‘Tis the season to be jolly but the cost of noncompliance is increasing and CRCS Legal is here to help.
Here are some Christmas crackers:

Hot off the Press – Here are the new guideline rates:

GradeFee EarnerLondon
ASolicitors and legal executives with over 8
years’ experience
BSolicitors and legal executives with
over 4 years’ experience
GradeFee EarnerLondon
COther solicitors or legal executives and
fee earners of equivalent experience
DTrainee solicitors, paralegals and
other fee earners

They will be applied from January 2024. The Guideline hourly rates are not “a hard and fast
rule” but are used as a marker by judges and costs lawyers for the fees that should be
charged by different types of fee earners.
Some may be wondering why fixed costs have not been reviewed!

Axiom Ince Intervention – will it affect you?

The SRA announced on the 29 November that they will not be imposing an overall cap on
claims against the Compensation Fund arising from Axiom Ince.
To date the SRA have received a jaw dropping £33 million in claims, though a claim against
Axiom Ince’s Professional Indemnity Insurance is underway.
The SRA have said there will be no immediate one-off levy against Solicitors to pay the
fallout from this intervention. However, there could be a hike in contributions next year.
Watch this space.

AML News – Fourth largest Fine

It could happen to you! A National firm has been fined more than £100,000 by the SRA after
they self-reported money laundering compliance failures.
In published details of an agreed outcome, the SRA said the firm agreed to pay a penalty of
£101,357 plus investigation costs of £1,350.
This relates to three conveyancing transactions carried out between October 2017 and
March 2018. Two of the transactions related to the purchases of properties worth £3.2m
and £550,000 on behalf of a limited company. The third transaction related to the purchase
of a property worth more than £3m on behalf of a UK registered charity.
It is reported that in the first transaction, the SRA said customer due diligence revealed
conflicting information as to the ultimate beneficial owner and the source of funds was ‘not
fully understood or evidenced and had changed during the transaction’. The firm’s
compliance department raised the issues but there was no written record as to if they were
fully resolved before the transaction was completed.
According to the SRA, in a subsequent investigation, the firm ‘identified a potential link
between one of the purported beneficial owners and an entity subject to UK sanctions.”
The client file in relation to the charity matter contained no source of funds information or
customer due diligence documentation. It also showed that the firm had previously been
instructed to act in the purchase for a different client.
There was no suggestion that any money laundering or other financial crime took place.

Contact CRCS and we will independently review your AML Policies and Procedure

Tipping off

The first solicitor ever prosecuted by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) for ‘tipping off’ a client
about a money laundering investigation has been convicted. This brings home the reality of
the AML Regulations. It is not just regulatory but can be criminal.
The SFO said that, in 2018, its investigators made covert enquiries about the firm’s client,
who had paid £4m toward the purchase of a Mayfair property.
According to reports, the Solicitor immediately contacted his client to inform him about the
investigation and went on to meet them to discuss the matter across the next five months,
including by flying out to their home in Malta the following week and meeting him at a West
London private dining club.
Further, in response to an SFO request, the solicitor supplied a fake ‘letter of engagement’.
He was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to
complete 100 hours of unpaid work, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said.

Do you and your MRLO understand your responsibilities and liabilities?

To close the Office or not to close for Christmas and New Year

The Law Society published an article on the 1 December – “Coping with Christmas”
Is your law firm closing for Christmas this year?
Have you considered your employees (and your) wellbeing? Could a close down improve
productivity in the New Year?
But what about your clients? Can your mangers make sure that all high-risk clients have a
rota mobile contact number? Just in case?
Is anyone else open that you would usually deal with?
If not, look at the logistics of a skeleton staff, fair coverage rotas and giving a fixed set of
days off for all employees. Remote working?
Worth thinking about this festive season.

Are your policies up to date?

How can CRCS Legal Ltd help?

The risk of non-compliance is real, serious, and costly. We can provide:
A comprehensive compliance and web-site health check. A thorough look at your policies
and procedures with solutions for any non-compliance.
Technical compliance support on an ad hoc or retainer basis. This will give you direct access
to compliance professionals.
Complaint handling and assistance with the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) We can investigate the
complaints, make recommendations, and draft your complaint response. We have years of
experience of dealing with Le0.
Compliance training – one off training courses and comprehensive training programmes. We
can help you comply with the SRA’s continuing competence requirements.
File reviews and audits – detailed and in-depth reviews in accordance with the SRA
supervision requirements.
Bespoke Compliance policies, procedures and templates.
Assistance with Lexcel accreditation and visits
Anti-Money Laundering (AML) – a review of procedures and policies update
Transparency rules – Are you publishing the correct costs and complaints information?
GDPR and the ICO – including managing data breaches and SARs.
Advice on PII renewal
Assistance with SRA investigations and prosecutions
Merger and Acquisitions- assessment of regulatory compliance issues and due diligence

Take control of your risk and contact us today for a confidential discussion.
AND finally, in the spirit of bad lawyer jokes, CRCS wishes you but cannot guarantee a very happy
Wishing you all a pleasant Christmas and prosperous New Year

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