The SRA have today announced a plan to carry out rigorous checks on law firms to make sure they are meeting their anti-money laundering obligations.
The regulator will shortly be writing to an initial sample of 400 firms asking them to demonstrate compliance with the Government’s 2017 Money Laundering Regulations. There are around 7,000 SRA-regulated law firms who fall under the scope of these Regulations.
The SRA want to make sure that firms have a money laundering risk assessment in place and are implementing it. A risk assessment is required by legislation and should be the backbone of a firm’s anti-money laundering approach. If firms are not complying, they will go into the regulator’s enforcement processes.
Each case will be judged on its facts, but if there are serious issues or a lack of willing to resolve issues promptly, disciplinary action will be taken. The SRA also plan to carry out further compliance checks where sector-wide issues are found.
Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: “Money laundering is far from being a victimless crime and must be taken seriously. Solicitors, as enablers of moving funds around, can willingly or unwittingly be part of the problem. So we expect firms to be vigilant and they, in turn, can expect us to be robust in our enforcement action where solicitors firms are involved in money laundering or are not complying with the relevant legislation.”
The SRA stated that in the last five years, more than 60 cases – linked to potential improper money movements – were taken to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. This has resulted in more than 40 solicitors being struck off, voluntarily coming off the roll, or suspended from practising.