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A watchdog of watchdogs

FCA calls for views following announcement of UK AML Watchdog “OPBAS”

· News,Financial Crime

In March 2017, the Government announced its plans to launch a new anti-money laundering (“AML”) watchdog, the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS).

The OPBAS will be hosted by the FCA, and essentially will act as a supervisor of supervisors, monitoring the activities of professional bodies in other sectors at risk of money laundering.

This move is intended to complement the implementation of the Money Laundering Regulations 2017 by strengthening standards of AML supervision. We wait to see whether it will really enhance the fight against financial crime, or whether it puts additional strain on the FCA for limited impact.

Yesterday, the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) published a consultation seeking views on proposed rules that will apply to the 22 professional body supervisors that sets out expectations in relation to anti-money laundering supervision.

OPBAS is set to play a crucial role in tackling financial crime by ensuring that loopholes and inconsistencies across industry guidance documents are no longer open to exploitation. Firms in affected sectors (list below) may now find they are subject to as much scrutiny as financial services firms regulated by the FCA.

The FCA certainly has teeth to make an impact. Where appropriate, it will publicly censure the Professional Body AML Supervisors or recommend that the Treasury cancel their status as an AML supervisor, neither action will be an appealing thought for the other regulators.

It is expected that OPBAS will be operational from early 2018 and firms in affected sectors may want to prepare for a more invasive regime, if indeed their professional body does not force their hand.

There are many ways we can assist, including:

  • Financial crime risk assessments
  • Review and  updates of firms’ financial crime policies and procedures
  • Anti-money laundering (and financial crime) training and workshops

The 22 professional bodies that will be supervised by OPBAS are:

  • Association of Accounting Technicians
  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
  • Association of International Accountants
  • Association of Taxation Technicians
  • Chartered Institute of Legal Executives
  • Chartered Institute of Management Accountants
  • Chartered Institute of Taxation
  • Council for Licensed Conveyancers
  • Faculty of Advocates
  • Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury
  • General Council of the Bar / Bar Standards Board
  • General Council of the Bar of Northern Ireland
  • Insolvency Practitioners Association
  • Institute of Certified Bookkeepers
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales    
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland
  • Institute of Financial Accountants
  • International Association of Bookkeepers
  • Law Society / Solicitors Regulation Authority
  • Law Society of Northern Ireland
  • Law Society of Scotland
OPBAS will be funded through the introduction of a new fee on professional body supervisors.
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