The Faculty of Advocates has voiced deep dismay at being exposed to a new “burdensome and financially onerous” anti-money laundering regime.
Under UK government plans, an Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS) will be established within the Financial Conduct Authority.
OPBAS will oversee the adequacy of the anti-money laundering supervisory arrangements of 22 professional bodies, including the Faculty.
A “sourcebook for professional body supervisors” has been drafted and the FCA sought views on it in a consultation.
In its response, the Faculty said that advocates did not handle clients’ money, nor did they open or manage bank, savings or securities accounts. Also, a very large proportion of members worked in areas of law which did not come under anti-money laundering regulations. Still, members were obliged under the Faculty’s Code of Conduct to acquaint themselves with legislation covering proceeds of crime and money laundering, and to take appropriate steps to comply with them.
“The obvious striking, and disappointing, feature of the guidance proposals is the failure to distinguish between individual professional body supervisors and to treat each as largely identical. Such an approach is over simplistic and does not begin to reflect the unique and very low risk position of the Faculty as an independent referral Bar,” the response stated.
“There has never been any suggestion that the Faculty or its advocates are failing in their duties or that they require tighter control. The Faculty has been, and will continue to be, very willing to engage with HM Treasury and the Legal Sector Affinity Group in developing best practices.
“We note that it is anticipated that there will be an additional average cost to professional body supervisors of £39,800 per year of administration costs. We do not consider it in any way acceptable that a small body such as Faculty, with a very low risk profile, should be subjected to such a burdensome and financially onerous regime.”