Risk Update

Risk Roundup — AML Fine for Top Law Firm, Facebook Confidentiality Breach & State AG Commissioner’s Moonlighting

SRA fines leading firm for money laundering check failures” —

  • “Well-known law firm Taylor Vinters has been fined by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for failing to undertake proper money laundering checks on millions of pounds paid into its client account.”
  • “The agreement said that, from October 2014 onwards, Taylor Vinters acted in 161 matters for 88 clients, who were overseas nationals purchasing off-plan property plots in London.”
  • “Taylor Vinters had what it described as its ‘quadruple lock’ process, which required a form of photo ID, confirmation of address, copy of the client’s bank statement (or other bank confirmation) and an online anti-money laundering check. It would enquire as to the client’s source of wealth on an exception basis, when deemed appropriate. In relation to these matters, an employee or manager of the firm only met half of the clients in person – for the rest, the firm received the money before any or all of the customer due diligence had been done.”
  • “The firm admitted failing to conduct: adequate customer due diligence before the receipt of funds into its client account; adequate ongoing monitoring, including source of funds checks; and adequate enhanced ongoing monitoring as required by the money laundering regulations.”

UK Firm Employee Banned For Identifying Client On Facebook and Overbilling” —

  • “A former employee at U.K. law firm DAC Beachcroft been issued with a work restriction order by the Solicitors Regulation Authority for identifying the name of a client on Facebook and for overbilling his working hours.”
  • “In a notice posted on the SRA’s website on Friday, the regulator said that Howell had ‘breached client confidentiality by identifying the name of a client in a post on Facebook, and in a second post commenting on a case being conducted for that client.'”
  • “The regulator added that Howell had failed to act in his clients’ best interests and in a way that maintains public trust in him by ‘spending excessive time dealing with clients’ matters and recording billable time in excess of what was reasonable.'”

Mississippi’s full-time state AG commissioner still works second job as lawyer” —

  • “Despite holding a full-time, statewide elected position, Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson continues to practice law and is representing companies before another state agency.”
  • “Gipson, who receives $90,000 a year from taxpayers as agriculture commissioner, said he has taken ‘a significant reduction in pay’ from the law practice because of his limited work. He said his legal work doesn’t pose any conflict with his elected office, and that he limits his law practice and manages his time well, giving taxpayers their full due as commissioner of agriculture and commerce.”
  • “While Mississippi’s weak ethics laws and enforcement don’t appear to prohibit Gipson’s side work or representing a private company before a state agency, an ethics expert said it could easily be questioned by the public.”
  • “‘It’s not unusual or uncommon for a state or local official to still continue private employment after they are elected or appointed,’ said John Pelissero, a senior scholar in government ethics with the Makkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. ‘But the problem comes in when their private actions, in this case as a private attorney, seem to be at odds with serving the public interest.'”
  • “‘What we have here is at least the appearance of a conflict of interest, which could be judged as unethical, if in representing private clients before this other commission he’s putting private interest of the client ahead of the public.'”