In its fourth report, the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS) has found that professional bodies are continuing to demonstrate good levels of compliance with money laundering regulations but improvements in how effectively they supervise have not been good enough.
OPBAS is housed within the FCA and is responsible for overseeing 25 Professional Body Supervisors (PBSs) for anti-money laundering in the legal and accountancy sector.
OPBAS found that although PBSs had improved in some areas, such as enforcement action where the value of fines has almost doubled since 2019, many PBSs still fall short of OPBAS’ expectations. For example, the report found that too many PBSs still failed to share relevant information and intelligence proactively with regulators and law enforcement, and that action taken against firms who break the rules has been too slow in some cases.
OPBAS will continue to use all the regulatory tools and powers available within the current anti-money laundering (AML) framework to hold them accountable. However, the lack of consistent effectiveness across PBSs is an indication that reform is needed to improve standards of supervision. OPBAS supports the UK Government’s plans to consult on proposals for AML supervisory reform.
Emad Aladhal, Director of Specialists, said:
'The FCA is fully committed to playing a strong role in reducing and preventing financial crime, and, through OPBAS, we are able to have a broader reach into the legal and accountancy sectors as well as across financial services. Professional bodies are continuing to improve their oversight, but they need to be more ambitious and accelerate their efforts so that we can tackle money laundering more effectively.
'Over the next year, we will be looking to make greater use of all our regulatory tools, including enforcement action where appropriate, to make sure PBSs continue to improve and fulfil their obligations.'
In January 2023, OPBAS published a revised sourcebook, which set out additional guidance on the outcomes PBSs need to achieve to enhance their work. It will be assessing PBSs against this revised sourcebook from May 2023.
The FCA confirmed in this year’s Business Plan that it would be accelerating its work against financial crime, so OPBAS will be monitoring the consistency and effectiveness of PBSs closely as part of this work.