SRA to review rules on confidentiality

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is considering updating its confidentiality code of conduct following a hard-hitting market abuse study from the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

Last week (2 July) the FSA published the results of its insider dealing investigation, which scrutinised all parties involved in four major corporate deals to see how controls on sensitive information could be improved.

On its findings the regulator said: “It is vital to have the engagement of all those who handle inside information across both the regulated and the non-regulated community.

“For organisations which are subject to separate professional supervision, such as solicitors, we will need to pursue ideas in partnership with the relevant professional bodies.”

Initially the FSA proposed that the companies it regulates should take responsibility for ensuring everybody involved in their transactions adhere to the same standards. However, the City of London Law Society (CLLS) objected to this on the grounds that it would result in law firms being regulated by bodies other than the SRA. Chair of the CLLS’s rules and regulations committee Chris Perrin, who is also general counsel at Clifford Chance, said: “Our view was that we were happy to review the rules or what the solicitors’ code should say, but if there are to be changes they should be implemented by the SRA.”

The FSA and SRA are currently in talks about what the former requires and whether the latter will find it necessary to update its rulebook. According to Perrin, these discussions are at a very early stage, with no announcement expected in the short term.

Lawyers working in the financial services sphere pointed out that the FSA’s report is wide reaching, although at this stage the outcomes for law firms are not certain.

Clifford Chance partner Carlos Conceicao said: “It might be that in due course a code of practice will find its way into the rules for solicitors so that, if lawyers end up not doing what the FSA expects, we might be in breach of certain solicitors’ rules.”

Baker & McKenzie financial services lawyer Arun Srivastava said the report highlights the fact that law firms must pay closer attention to how they control inside information.