The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has issued fines to seven practices that have failed to comply with anti-money laundering (AML) requirements. The firms affected are Manchester practice Law Together LLP, Telford-based Picasso Legal Limited, Smooth Law Limited in St Helens, Manchester practice AB Corporate LLP, Devon firm Hole & Pugsley, Crawford & Company Legal Services Limited based in Liverpool, and Norwich-based Lake Jackson.
This is the second group of fines issued by the SRA after it sanctioned six practices last month for failing to demonstrate that they had taken steps to comply with AML requirements. It is not clear how many more firms are in line for penalties.
All practices were fined £800 and ordered to pay costs of £600. Crawford & Company Legal Services Limited, based in Liverpool (with offices in Manchester and Birmingham), is owned by the listed US insurance and claims management giant Crawford & Company. The firm was fined by the SRA after failing to complete an AML declaration by January 2020 as required. The confirmation that the firm had a compliant firm-wide risk assessment was not declared until April this year.
Norwich firm Lake Jackson was fined after making its declaration almost 11 months late and the remaining five firms were fined due to taking at least 13 months to provide AML declarations.
The Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds Regulations 2017, which came into force in June 2017, require firms conducting certain types of work to carry out a risk assessment for money laundering and terrorist financing.
In 2019 the SRA wrote to 400 law firms reminding them of their compliance obligations, including the requirement to implement a firm-wide risk assessment. Ahead of January 2020 the SRA had asked all firms carrying out certain types of work to confirm they had the relevant risk assessments in place.
The SRA then pledged to test a sample of firms’ policies each month amid concerns about some businesses not meeting obligations. The SRA urges firms to check the source of client funds particularly in conveyancing and trust management.