Wake up call for firms looking to employ the right MLRO

Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) reveal there have been some very serious cases of money laundering within the profession of recent. There are law firms who are currently undergoing the disciplinary process, say a Legal Features’ report. They have also stated a selection of main cases becoming public soon after the process is finalised.

Manager of Regulatory Management at the SRA, Sam Palmer, claims these particular cases arose amongst a significant surge in money laundering reports. Palmer also says once knowledge of the circumstances spreads, it will come as a great shock to the legal profession.

According to Palmer, this major issue can be put down to firms not employing money laundering reporting officers (MLROs) that are capable of performing the tasks and applying procedures effectively. There have been instances where firms have had very young and inexperienced members of staff ordered to perform the duties of an MLRO, with other employees having little money maundering training and no follow up process for alerts within the office.

This apparent lack of interest at senior level is a great concern and is naturally filtered down across all levels within the departments, Palmer added.

Legal Features have also reported the SRA’s Director of Intelligence and Investigation, Steve Wilmott, envisages the industry facing an ideal environment being created for money laundering. Warnings are said to have been circulated amongst the legal and financial sectors of difficult times ahead.

Wilmott apparently continued by saying the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) are expected to be inspecting the UK come 2016, with an aim to crack down on money laundering issues. Prior to this, an EU anti-money laundering Directive will be implemented in 2015 and the government are soon to be enforcing an initiative against so-called “professional enablers”.

As part of the SRA’s stance against money laundering, they are planning to perform management checks on a number of firms across the nation, with a focus on money laundering.

Palmer advises in the Legal Features’ report that in order to be compliant, firms must permit a senior member of staff to set up the required systems and procedures, and then be able to enforce them consistently and competently.

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