More than 1,000 firms are to be freed from the requirement to submit accountants’ reports to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.The SRA Board today agreed new criteria for submission of accounts to lift the burden on smaller firms regarded as less of a risk.Firms dealing exclusively with legal aid are already exempt from the requirement, and the SRA will expand that exemption to include all firms with an average account balance of less than £10,000 over a year and a maximum account balance of £250,000.The changes are thought to affect around 1,000 law firms in England and Wales.As well as lowering the burden on firms, the SRA will also seek to reduce its own workload by removing the requirement to submit so many accounts. More than 9,000 reports are submitted every year, of which around half are qualified by accountants for a perceived breach.However, just 200 of these submissions lead to any referral or further investigation.The reforms will also encourage accountants to use their professional judgment to assess reports they prepare and remove the need to qualify accounts for trivial breaches of accounting rules.’Some firms may find that obtaining reports is very expensive because of their size and structure, so it makes sense to use accountants’ expert views in this way to ensure value for money,’ said Crispin Passmore, executive director for policy.’Where firms hold smaller amounts of client money and are relatively low risk, relaxing the current arrangement is sensible.’The SRA floated the idea last year of removing reporting requirements altogether, but it was felt that this would pose too great a risk for clients.The current proposal went for consultation in November 2014 and received 42 responses.SRA board chair Enid Rowlands (pictured) said the new policy is a sign of the organisation’s new emphasis on ‘proportionate’ measures which are more effective. ‘There are other ways of finding information which analyse risk which work better than adding this layer of bureaucracy,’ she added.
The government has been urged to clarify the future of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), amid fresh concerns that the specialist body is to be merged into a new crime-fighting agency. Answering questions in parliament, solicitor general Robert Buckland (pictured) stopped short of giving a definite answer on the office’s future status – saying only that the situation was ‘under review’.The SFO is one of several agencies under the spotlight as part of a Cabinet Office review of agencies set up to combat economic crime. The National Crime Agency (NCA) and Financial Conduct Authority are among others being assessed.The Cabinet Office declined to comment on the review, referring the Gazette to comments made by Home Secretary Amber Rudd in parliament in December.Rudd said the government will look at the UK’s response to economic crime ‘more broadly’, including at the effectiveness of ’organisational framework and the capabilities, resources and powers available to the organisations that tackle economic crime’.Pressed by Conservative MP Bob Neill and Labour’s shadow solicitor-general Nick Thomas-Symonds, Buckland said he agreed that the SFO was doing a good job but did not give reassurance about its future.Thomas-Symonds called on Buckland to confirm that the SFO will not be merged with the NCA, a plan Theresa May is thought to have considered when she was home secretary.Buckland said he and the government had a ‘duty at all times’ to review organisations. He added that he believed the SFO’s ‘Roskill model’, where prosecutors and investigators work together, ‘works very well’.Thomas-Symonds said: ‘This government needs to recognise the value of the SFO and its importance to our international reputation for tackling cases of bribery and corruption.‘It would be a grave mistake to dispose of the SFO and its unique structure. Ministers must provide clarity on its future immediately.’An SFO spokesperson told the Gazette: ‘The structure of law enforcement is a matter for government – we are cooperating fully with and contributing to this exercise.’
SALT LAKE CITY — Anyone who has been paying only casual attention to the Utah basketball team this year is probably asking the question, “Where has this J.J. O’Brien been all year?”O’Brien was a revelation Wednesday night in the Utes’ 82-72 victory over New Mexico, as he scored 18 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, had a pair of assists and a steal in 33 minutes of action.The answer to the aforementioned question is, “sitting on the bench,” although it wasn’t because his coach didn’t think O’Brien was any good. The freshman from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., had to sit out six weeks with a stress fracture in his foot and watch in frustration as the Utes struggled in the early part of the season.But now he’s back and don’t blame coach Jim Boylen if he says, “I told you so.””I’ve been preaching that I thought J.J. O’Brien could be special, and I tried to be humble about it,” Boylen said. “But I thought he could be a really special player. I’m thankful he’s healthy, because he’s a difference-maker for us.”O’Brien showed that from the opening tip as he made Utah’s first two baskets on drives to the rim.”I was just trying to be aggressive,” he said. “Driving the ball is a strong suit of mine, so that’s what I was trying to do.”Later he scored on a spin move inside, scored on a couple of follow shots off rebounds and also sank his first 3-pointer of the season.O’Brien has gradually been working his way back and showed a glimpse of what he could do with a 13-point, 11-rebound performance in a loss to BYU last week. He said he feels more comfortable every game after having to sit out for most of the season because he was injured after the first game.”It was very frustrating being out,” he said. “Coming in and starting right away I had expectations from the fans. Being out was a big setback, and I tried to see the game from a different perspective sitting on the sidelines.”But I always knew my opportunity would come — rebounding, playing defense, stuff like that and showing my versatility. Coach Boylen has been talking about that third scorer. I’ve been working hard to help my team and today it was me.”After scoring the first two Utah baskets of the game, O’Brien scored 10 points in the first half when Utah took a 45-31 lead. Early in the second half, he sank a 3-pointer from the right angle, then made a three-point play inside.Then, after scoring his 18th point with 7:20 left, he created a Lobo turnover by forcing a jumpball under the New Mexico basket.The 6-foot-7 O’Brien played guard in high school and even played point guard this past summer, according to Boylen. With Utah being thin inside with Jay Watkins out for the year, O’Brien gives the Utes needed inside help along with his guard skills.”He has versatility with that big body and ability to handle the ball,” Boylen said. “He’s a physical presence for an 18-year-old freshman with a high basketball I.Q. That’s where he’s really special. He’s a special, versatile guy.”e-mail: [email protected] U. tames Lobos for consecutive wins Related
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