SRA issues guidance for NatWest and RBS account holders

As NatWest and RBS Banks have experienced technical problems over the last two days there has been concern about how this will affect law firms.  The SRA has today published guidance on its website relating to this.
The guidance released by the SRA is set out below:
A number of firms will be affected by the computer system problems being experienced by NatWest and RBS banks. The problem for firms is the inability to see client account balances and transactions that have taken place over the past three days. Firms will be concerned about becoming overdrawn on their accounts should any payments be made out.

For those firms completing on conveyancing transactions there will be particular concern that the funds are not available.

The SRA has discussed this issue with NatWest and RBS. The banks are trying to resolve these problems and recognise the difficulties being caused to solicitors and their clients. They have confirmed that where firms have used best endeavours to ensure the payment has been made into their account, for example by contacting lenders (or the buyers’ solicitors) direct for confirmation of payment, they are prepared to give appropriate undertakings to indemnify solicitors. Standard undertakings have been produced and promulgated to the relevant account and relationship managers dealing with solicitors’ accounts. Firms should contact their bank relationship managers directly to discuss the terms of those undertakings.

When contacting lenders or buyers solicitors with regard to payments, firms should keep a full note of the date and time of the conversation, with whom they spoke and the amount transferred; it is also advisable to confirm those details immediately by email.

We would like to assure those solicitors who have given undertakings with regard to completion that we cannot foresee a situation where disciplinary action would be taken due to problems that arise as a result of these difficulties. Equally, should there be a breach of the SRA Accounts Rules as a consequence of the present system failures, and solicitors acting in their clients’ best interests to nevertheless complete transactions, disciplinary action will not be taken. Should you require any further guidance please contact the Professional Ethics helpline 0870 606 2577 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 0870 606 2577 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
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