Another Fine Handed Out By SRA Fo Conveyancing ID Failures
Further to our previous article regarding the east London solicitor who was suspended and subsequently ordered to pay costs of £26,000 by the SRA for Anti Money Laundering Regulations (AML) failures, an ABS has faced an investigation and a consequent fine for failure to carry out sufficient identity checks on conveyancing transactions. The Northamptonshire firm admitted failing to run its business effectively and breaching the money laundering regulations. The SRA, which can fine ABSs up to £250m, said that, because the firm had an annual turnover of over £2m, the fine was calculated as a percentage of its turnover, which was just under £2.6m. However, the basic fine of 0.9% of £2.6m, coming to over £23,000, was reduced by 40% for mitigating factors, such as assisting the SRA with its investigation, early admissions, corrections and commitment to providing a high standard of service.
The firm was fined £14,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,500. The warnings from the SRA regarding their stance on AML obligations have been un-floundering, and through a series of announcements, have made it clear that firms must be compliant with the AML regulations. In a recent article from the Law Society Gazette, it was publicised that the SRA expects firms to “check exactly where your client’s money came from” stressing that solicitors should ask questions about client wealth before facilitating any transaction.
Mark Boyle, policy lead on anti-money laundering for the regulator, said that the idea that firms need to check only whether clients have a UK bank account is a myth. Boyle told the regulator’s annual compliance conference: ‘The key is knowing who your client is and understanding who your client is and understanding why they have come to you – does it make sense? ‘You really need to be checking how did the person get their money? Be it through salary, investment or gifts. It can be many legitimate means, but you need to understand that and be evidencing that.’ Firms are well-advised to review their AML policies, application at case level, and their firm -wide risk assessment and take immediate action to ensure they are sufficiently robust or update them to achieve and maintain a compliant status.
For many firms, dealing with this in-house without sufficient understanding, resource or time can be extremely debilitating to partners and their business, as compliance with the AML regulations is not as simple as it may first seem. Often expert advice and guidance is essential to ensure your firm achieves a compliant status, and maintains it.
At The Strategic Partner, we work with firms to ensure that the AML procedures are in line with expectations and importantly we work with them on an ongoing basis to assess and adapt them to ensure they remain relevant. In addition, our standard service extends beyond AML and covers other areas of risk and compliance that are essential for a law firm.
Often expert advice and guidance is essential to ensure your firm achieves a compliant status and maintains it.
Robust AML compliance solutions that are cost-effective and will protect your firm
The Strategic Partner’s packaged compliance solutions for firms enable our clients to achieve a compliant status, and we continue to work with them on an ongoing basis. This enables the owners and staff to focus on services for their clients and running the firm knowing that their AML requirements are taken care of. At £3000 per annum (which can be paid monthly or quarterly) the relative cost savings to firms is significant, not least of all in comparison to any potential costs and fines a firm could receive if they are found in breach of the AML obligations and find themselves confronted with an SRA enquiry.
Our services include as standard:
- Drafting bespoke policies
- Training of all staff (annually)
- Annual Audits Annual firm- wide Risk Assessment
- Access to a helpline
- Implementation of notification forms giving access to compliance officers
- Implementation of checklists to control and manage risk and regulation
- Implementation and management of registers to record information and evidence compliance
- Reporting on all activity to evidence compliance
- Ongoing updates to policies and newsletters to educate and share intelligence
We deliver the resource and the expertise that a firm may not have the time to deliver. Our two cornerstone services provide firms with robust risk and compliance structure.
The combination of these services provides firms with a bespoke service that achieves a compliant firm and ensures you stay there.
How we can help
The Strategic Partner provides essential support to law firms. We offer a range of services and consultancy tailored to the legal sector. We have gained a wealth of knowledge and experience in the overall management of law firms and work with them to achieve profitability, stability, and efficiency. Our goal is to become a valued and respected partner to our member law firms providing high-quality services and solutions at all times.
We would be very happy to discuss your current approach to regulation and compliance and how our services will assist you in ensuring your firm is protected.