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.
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.