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Agents told off for not being ready for Anti-Money Laundering regs

A security company says it is “disappointing” the estate agency industry is only around 55 per cent through preparations to cope with Anti-Money Laundering regulations – even though the new rules came into force at the start of the year.

LexisNexis Risk Solutions claims a majority of major players in the agency industry – as well as those in banking, lending and wealth management – have only completed 55 per cent of their plans to implement processes to cope with the Fifth Money Laundering Directive which became law on January 10.

The firm claims those agencies unprepared risk fines from the regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, for not fully complying with the directive.

Yet it is apparently not the fault of the pandemic that agents are so poorly prepared – LexisNexis’ survey of 500 companies threw up the response that the majority had actually accelerated their plans because of Coronavirus, rather than giving them lower priority.

“Therefore, it’s reasonable to ask whether firms would be even a third of the way through the process by now if the crisis had not occurred?” says a statement from the security company.

It also accuses agents and other professionals subject to the AML rules of suffering “widespread confusion” about the new legislation, with fewer than half of respondents able to correctly identify that the directive was introduced to prevent the financial system being used for the funding of criminals and to strengthen transparency rules.

Michael Harris – director of financial crime compliance at the company – says it’s “disappointing” that so many agencies and other players are so far behind and that “firms appear not to be prioritising this important legislation, given the positive impact it can have on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering and terrorist financing.”

He concludes: “Firms really need to get on with implementing it as quickly as possible, especially as further regulatory changes are likely to follow later this year” he warns, painting a picture of allowing money laundering to produce “a flood of dirty money that is so deep we simply drown.”

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