20201221 My end-of-year newsletter : suspicious activity reports; failure to regulate lawyers and more

Both Australia and Canada take the view that lawyers are best dealt with by their own regulatory regime. The Australian report says ″lawyers are subject to stringent requirements prescribed by the regulatory regime of the legal profession legislation and rules of professional conduct. Through compliance with lawyers’ existing obligations, the risks of becoming inadvertently involved in money laundering or the financing of terrorism may be largely addressed.″

There is so much evidence that this is not so that it’s difficult to understand how this position can be supported.

There is a back-up objection: that suspicious transaction reporting impinges on the relationship between the client and his lawyers. Well, yes. It does. That is precisely what the primary law is designed to do: to isolate those who commit crimes from right-thinking people. Therefore, so does the primary law. In fact, the suspicion based reporting regime protects lawyers if they get paid from funds from dodgy sources.

That’s just two of the issues that have raised their heads in the past twelve months. Most things have been flash-in-the-pan, trendy things that in this weird year have spread rapidly and burned out. But these two are persistent problems that show no signs of going away any time soon.

The irritating thing is that they are both issues that result from weak governments, i.e. those that demand over-performance from their FIUs while failing to provide the resources necessary and those that are unwilling to make decisions in the face of powerful lobbyists.

*The traditional position is that solicitors were in trade while barristers were a profession. It’s a distinction that few would now recognise and which has no relevance where there is a fused profession.