Even more connections have been uncovered between senior employees at the Solicitors Regulation Authority, its board members and its favourite firms. 

They will reinforce the appearance that the SRA is suffering from a cronyism problem, and come as the regulator's new Chair rushed out a press release promising greater transparency.

The latest person to be revealed as a member of the very close-knit SRA family is Dame Denise Platt, who has been a member of the SRA board since January 2016.

As previously revealed by RollOnFriday, before they won their jobs at the SRA, four out of five of the Senior Management Team were colleagues at the General Medical Council. SRA Chief Executive Paul Philip was the GMC's Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Operating Officer. Robert Loughlin, who is now the the SRA Executive Director of Operations and Quality, was the GMC's Head of Change Management. Jane Malcolm, who is now the SRA's Executive Director of External Affairs, was the GMC's assistant director. Juliet Oliver, who is the SRA's General Counsel,  was a GMC lawyer. The previous SRA chair, Enid Rowlands, was also a GMC board member.

It so happens that Platt is also a GMC board member. Her tenure overlapped with Philip and his team while they were at the GMC. Platt still sits on the GMC board, where she serves as the Chair of the Remuneration Committee. At the SRA she is the chair of the SRA's People Strategy Committee, which, as one of its functions, advises the SRA board on how much to pay Philip and his Senior Management Team. Philip's current salary stands at £244,000 plus pension contributions. The SRA would not disclose how much it pays the rest of the SMT.

Further connections have also emerged between the SRA General Counsel and firms which have won roles on SRA panels. In 2017 Capsticks was appointed the sole provider for disciplinary and litigation work after more than a dozen firms bid for the role. The same year, Capsticks also took one of three slots on the SRA's inaugural General Counsel panel. A Capsticks partner, Nimi Bruce, was a lawyer at the GMC prior to joining the firm in 2010. At the GMC she is understood to have worked alongside Oliver.

As previously noted by RollOnFriday, there are also links between Oliver, who also serves as the SRA's Executive Director of Case Direction, and Fieldfisher, which took one of the other two slots on the General Counsel panel. Before taking up her position at the SRA, Oliver was a lawyer at the firm. She was made up to the partnership while in the team of its now-senior partner, Matthew Lohn, who led Fieldfisher's successful bid. Around the same time, Lohn was under investigation by the SRA in connection with an alleged conflict of interest relating to his work for the British Horseracing Authority, but the investigation was dropped.


det

It's all connected.


There is little doubt that the firms and lawyers involved are perfectly competent, and the SRA has been at pains to stress that it followed rigorous and open selection processes with regard to its staff and firm hires. But the connections are so numerous that the appearance of potential impropriety is difficult to avoid. And possibly the regulator should have been aware of how cosy it would all look.

A day before RollOnFriday's last story on the SRA was published, its new chair announced that the profession's regulator was "committed to making sure that we work in an open and transparent way". 

Anna Bradley said that the SRA already achieved this "in a variety of ways – from our Annual review to consultations" (though not FOI requests), "but I think it is also really important that people can understand how our Board makes decisions." She signalled a new era of live tweeting, a Chair's blog and less secret board minutes. A spokesman said the timing of the statement "had nothing to do with recent coverage" and had been in the works since Bradley's appointment in January. He added that the SRA had no new comment to make about the latest examples of how small the regulatory world can be.

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Comments

Sumoking 28 June 19 09:37

"There is little doubt that the firms and lawyers involved are perfectly competent"

........have you ever had any dealing with the SRA? I mean, even their handling of this running news story is pretty dismal 

Marshall Hall 28 June 19 09:42

A glorious merry-go-round of these serial apparatchiks, swanning from one sinecure to the next.

The SRA needs to come clean about the pay and conditions of all the folks in this cosy family.

If I had been bidding for a place on the SRA's panel I would be livid at this news. 

Even Comrade Putin would blanch at the shamelessness of it all.

Brill 28 June 19 10:21

Fantastic work RoF

Check out at all the Ofwat, Ofgem and Ofcom, SRA and BSB quangocrats - a glorious merry-go-round of peerages, "modest" £250 a head conferences, international stakeholder jollies to Brussels and beyond, "best practice" awaydays at nice hotels and great salaries all round

 

Anon-anon 28 June 19 11:09

I'd call you Woodward and Bernstein, if Bernstein wasn't an insult on the discussion board.  So you're Woodward.  Well done, keep at it (it took them years!).

Anon 28 June 19 11:23

The point surely is that this is not about the SRA recruiting from other regulators but just one, the GMC. That in itself raises questions. Further it appears Enid Rowlands and Dame Denise who are tasked with oversight of the SMT were also connected with the GMC and during the same tenure as current SMT members. Agree likely to be of interest to national press, although I would personally like to see questions raised with the oversight regulator the Legal Services Board and Parliamentary questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anonymous 28 June 19 13:29

This should only be the start of the investigation into the GMC cabal at the SRA. All of those posts were presumably occupied by people who had to make way for the GMC crowd, with rapid departures and subsequent silence being expensive to arrange, so you have to question what Philip and friends did with their unchecked powers once secured? 

JH 28 June 19 13:37

Anon 28 June 19 11:23: "...I would personally like to see questions raised with the oversight regulator the Legal Services Board..."

Agreed. So much so in fact I have just written to them on the matter. I wonder whether they will confirm to ROF that they will investigate.

anon 28 June 19 19:21

Justice must not just be done but be seen to be done.  

One would think that a legal regulator, however half-arsed, incompetent and staffed with people who are unemployable outside the regulatory Merry- go round would understand that.  Perception equals reality.

M 28 June 19 21:50

You will be telling me next that the sra board is made up of middle age middle class white people ( with a token black and Asian member ). 

Anonymous 4 July 2019 05 July 19 09:40

Chairman Anna Bradley, new recruit Selina Ullah and Juliet Oliver are all involved in the General Optical Council. Nothing to SEE there. 

Anonymous 05 July 19 10:31

This mirrors the classic scenario all regulators are told to look out for, dominant individual ruthlessly removes any dissenting voices, brings in their own team of yes men/women, fills the board full of his cronies, hires an army of PR people to regularly shout about the good work they do whilst closing  all avenues of external scrutiny - we know how those scenarios usually end...

Anon 09 July 19 13:59

is ROF going to make a FOI request for the letter closing down Lohn investigation which no doubt could be suitably redacted if required and also for confirmation as to whether Juliet Oliver was aware of the investigation, updated concerning it and involved in discussions concerning it or decision to close it down and if so how, and whether she was notified at any stage of it and in particular the decision to close it down. Need to understand irrespective of whose name signs of closure letter who actually agreed or decided to close down the investigation, and whether Juliet Oliver recused herself or whose involved albeit behind the scenes. This requires further investigation. if they refuse to provide this think it is worth making complaint to independent reviewer given potential public interest concerns here for SRA having failed to carry out its duty in public interest and potential issues of conflict of interest, bias and abuse of process.

 

Also don’t  know why they won’t disclose the other directors pay when this has previously been provided by SRA and published (see what they know.com/request/379321/response/928585= letter dated 30 January 2017 lists all directors salary range. Worth raising with the SRA I think and ICO if they won’t provide this. 

Anon 09 July 19 14:19

“There is little doubt that the firms and lawyers involved are perfectly competent...”.

Surely, crux of issue isn’t the competency but the fairness and appropriateness of the methods employed by the SRA and resultant service level and outcomes provided in serving public interest in selecting its lawyers from amongst those with GMC links.

Juliet Oliver was appointed as General Counsel, and this became a Executive Director role. Not sure this was clear that it would be Director position when role was advertised and she was initially appointed . Although there was already a Executive Director of legal of over ten years standing David Middleton, his role was squashed and then he was ousted by GMC lot to make way for GMC favourite. Subsequently his role was reduced to Director of Case Direction, this has now been subsumed by Juliet Oliver and she is Legal Counsel, executive director and director of case direction as shown in SRA website.

Juliet Oliver’s ex firm FFW conducted review of disciplinary and litigation function.  They recommended a one firm system for litigation and disciplinary work which was embraced by those incharge and questioned by those not given potential for conflict of interest, monopoly developing and/or capacity issues.  Any concerns expressed were quashed by ex GMC leads. The disciplinary and  litigation functions at that time led by David Middleton are therefore left with one firm, Capsticks, better known for their medical regulatory work.

However interestingly when Juliet Oliver recruited Panel for legal Policy team this one firm system was not considered appropriate for her work ( which has fraction of volume of litigation and disciplinary team) There are 3 firms which of course include FFW and Capsticks.  

 

 

 

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