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Sifa wants probe into St James’s Place referrals

Solicitors Regulation Authority urged to investigate allegations of breaches of code of conduct.

Sifa is reporting at least three big solicitor firms to the Solicitors Regulation Authority for allegedly breaking Law Society rules by referring financial services business to St James’s Place.

The representative body for solicitor IFAs has also written to the SRA warning that SJP may be persuading solicitors to break the Law Society’s code of conduct rules by promoting itself as being eligible to receive referrals from solicitors.

Under Law Society rules, solicitors must only refer clients to independent financial advisers, not multitied or tied agents.

St James’s Place has denied the allegations and has offered to meet with Sifa to discuss any concerns.

Sifa managing director Ian Muirhead is compiling a dossier of evidence of referrals to St James’s Place and is calling on other advisers to forward evidence to him. He suggests that this could be “the tip of the iceberg”.

Muirhead says: “There is widespread anecdotal evidence that SJP is successfully persuading many solicitors that it is eligible to receive referrals, which it is not.”

Syndaxi Financial Planning Robert Reid says: “We have come across a number of examples of solicitors in Edinburgh using SJP in the mistaken belief that they are not breaking the code.

“They may be being induced by SJP and the onus is on the firm to prove these are isolated cases and that this is not being driven from the top.”

A St James’s Place spokes-man says: “SJP understands the rules governing solicitors and accountants with regard to referrals and has not, nor has ever made any claims about preferential treatment. It takes allegations of this nature seriously and if Sifa can provide further details, it will investigate specific cases.”

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