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London firm fined £15k for failing to train staff in AML
12 April 2024

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has issued another firm with a five-figure fine after finding failings in anti-money laundering measures. 

South east London firm Austen-Jones Solicitors was fined £15,200 after failing to make staff aware of AML requirements and failing to provide them with relevant training. The firm also failed to have in place or maintain the required AML documents for doing conveyancing work.

The SRA said the firm had started conveyancing work in 2017 and was contacted in 2020 by the regulator about making a declaration about having a risk assessment in place.

The firm responded immediately to apologise that it had not undertaken the risk assessment. But when the SRA carried out an inspection in November 2022, the supervision team found several failures to comply with money laundering regulations. These included failing to have a firm-wide assessment in place and for almost six years failing to have the required policies, controls and procedures.

The SRA said the firm’s conduct was a breach of its regulatory and legislative obligations ‘which persisted for longer than was reasonable’. The firm failed to take heed of the SRA’s guidance and warning notices about what was required, particularly when it was engaged in conveyancing work that was considered high-risk.

The firm co-operated with the SRA investigation, remedied the breaches and there was no evidence that actual harm occurred.

The regulator ruled that the firm should be fined 2.4% of its annual domestic turnover. It was also ordered to pay £1,350 in costs.

Austen-Jones Solicitors is the latest of more than 20 firms fined since last October for failure to comply with money laundering regulations. Due to new fining powers of up to £25,000, in addition to the new way of calculating fines as a percentage of turnover, these sanctions have tended to be more severe than the SRA had previously issued.

Source: The Law Society Gazette, 11 April 2024

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