SRA Fines Ashfords for Accounting Breach

How an internal training day uncovered a breach of accounting rules at one of the country’s top law firms.

D1ARH1 SRA, The Solicitors Regulation Authority at The Cube, Birmingham

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LONDON (Within the Law) - Top 100 Law Firm Ashfords got an unwelcome Christmas present with a £16,200 fine from the SRA for an accounting breach. The rule breach came to light during an internal training session. 

The firm, headquartered in Exeter, allowed more than £1million to be held for payments related to building projects being completed by its client. These funds were held until a stage of work was completed before being paid out to the client without Ashfords providing any significant element of legal services.

Under SRA rules any payments or withdrawals from a client account must be in respect of instructions relating to an underlying transaction. 

The regulator has acknowledged their cooperation and say there are no money laundering concerns. They also took into account that there was no loss suffered by the client and that they took immediate steps to ensure the conduct did not continue. The firm has improved its procedures, systems and controls to ensure compliance.

However, rules are rules and Ashfords broke them. The fine was set at £27,000 but reduced by 40% due to the firm’s early admission and cooperation. Ashfords are also paying £1,350 costs. 

(Written by Tom Cropper, Edited by Klaudia Fior)

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