Perhaps most urgently, the Pandora Papers have highlighted the role of lawyers, bankers, accountants, and other corporate professions who serve the ultra-rich – and the lack of real oversight for them.
A review in September 2021 by the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS) highlighted the potential failings of the professional bodies supposed to oversee lawyers, accountants and allied professions in the UK. OPBAS is part of the Financial Conduct Authority and was created to strengthen the UK’s anti-money laundering powers.
Although the review said that the sectors were “generally in compliance with technical requirements”, it noted some potentially alarming trends.
For example, the OPBAS noted that 81% of professional bodies in the sector did not have “an effective risk-based approach to supervising their members”, and that 50% of them “failed to ensure »timely action to correct the deficiencies of their members. anti-money laundering practices.
Beyond that, Hawley, of Spotlight on Corruption, notes that about a third of professional bodies in the industry suffer from a conflict of interest – they have failed to separate their advocacy functions from their regulatory powers. – which reduces their ability to maintain standards and ethics for their members.
“Ideally, the OPBAS would be a supervisor of all supervisors, including HMRC and FCA, and a supervisor who would make name and shame when supervisors are not doing their part, including taking disciplinary action.” , said Hawley.
It’s also a matter of resources, said Hawley: There are 25 different professional bodies that cover professions with anti-money laundering requirements. The UK government is considering how to consolidate anti-money laundering functions across the industry into a single professional supervisor – and the latest revelations could boost that idea.
“The Pandora Papers must be a time when the UK government is asked: are you serious about tackling illicit financing or not?” said Hawley.