SIF to impose millennium bug penalty

In an unprecedented move, the Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF) is launching a profession-wide hunt to find out which firms have failed to take precautions against the millennium bug.

In June this year, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Woolf, told SIF that, unlike most other insurers, it would have to cover any claims against firms arising from the millennium bug itself.

But SIF, whose continuing existence is in doubt following Law Society moves to allow a system of approved insurance, is desperate to avoid any further hikes in cont ributions. It wants firms found to have been “grossly negligent” in preparing for the problem to pay for their own indemnity.

Questionnaires have been compiled and will be sent out to every firm by 2 December. The responses will be used to determine culpability.

Any firm that refuses to co-operate will be hit with a 10 per cent “penalty contribution” with a minimum charge of £3,000.

It is expected that firms will face a flood of claims in 2000, with complaints arising partly from clients who are advised by firms which are not millennium compliant, but also from failure of their own systems.

A spokeswoman for SIF said: “If a firm is shown to have been grossly negligent with its IT, why should the profession foot the bill?”