Monthly Archives: April 2020

Anti Money Laundering (AML) Risk Assessment Review

Anti Money Laundering (AML) Risk Assessment Review

As part of the practice certificate renewal application for 2020, the Faculty Office required notaries to submit a copy of their practice risk assessment. All notaries are required to complete a risk assessment under Regulation 18 of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Regulations 2017 (“MLR 2017”). At the start of 2020 the Faculty Office undertook a detailed review of these risk assessments.

The results are published in the Risk Assessment Review Report (click link).

UK Legal Sector Affinity Group (LSAG) advisory note re COVID-19

UK Legal Sector Affinity Group (LSAG) advisory note re COVID-19

The UK Legal Sector Affinity Group (LSAG), which includes the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury and all the legal sector supervisors named in the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations, has jointly published an advisory note, highlighting key AML risks and challenges for the legal profession associated with the Covid-19 crisis. It also includes information to help the profession comply with their ongoing obligations under the Money Laundering Regulations.

The advisory note covers:

Some of the particular AML risks to legal firms and vulnerabilities that criminals may seek to exploit during this time of unprecedented economic pressure and upheaval

Challenges facing firms and factors to consider in respect of non face-to-face identification & verification, and associated digital identity services Other issues to consider in respect of policies, controls and procedures, data protection and information security

Spot Check – Price Information

Spot Check – Price Information

On 2 December 2019 Rule 14.2 of the Notaries’ Practice Rules 2019 came into force requiring all notaries publicising their practice via a website to ensure that clear information on pricing, redress, service, complaints and regulatory information was available for the public to access on their websites. In advance of this the Faculty Office reviewed a sample of 25 notaries’ websites in the August before the Rule came into force. The Faculty Office then revisited the same websites in March 2020 to determine how many of these websites were compliant.

The Faculty Office found that 80% of the profession sampled had made improvements towards compliance and that over 50% were compliant under each of the 5 headings considered. Encouragingly, 91% of the notaries investigated were now providing important regulatory information to consumers.

The full report can be viewed here: Spot Check (Price Information).

Where the notaries investigated were considered to still be non-compliant or only partially compliant, they will be contacted by the Faculty Office and asked to update the information on their websites within a set timeframe. The Faculty Office will aim to carry out further checks in the future and reviews of websites are conducted when a notary is inspected.


Covid-19 Advice for Notaries

The Covid-19 pandemic is presenting unprecedented challenges for us all. We will provide advice to Notaries in relation to Covid-19 which will be updated as the situation develops.

The Faculty Office

We continue to monitor closely the unprecedented threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. As far as possible, we are taking every available step to minimise the potential impact the virus will have on our service delivery to our regulated community and consumers whilst, most importantly, safeguarding and protecting our staff and their families.   Faculty Office staff are all working remotely. You will find all our staff’s direct dial numbers and individual email addresses at: http://www.facultyoffice.org.uk/about-us/staff/ and the main email address remains unchanged at faculty.offce@1thesanctuary.com.   Please use electronic means of communication rather than post where possible as post/DX will take longer to reach us. 

We are here to support you with regulatory issues you may have in the current environment. We can’t give legal advice but we can talk through your concerns and may be able to provide guidance on your regulatory issue.

Your work

We want to support you in finding safe ways to provide service to your clients where it is safe to do so.  These are exceptional times presenting unprecedented challenges to notaries and their clients. Lawyers around the world are facing huge difficulties and having to accept that delays, postponements and accommodations have to be made in legal transactions until some semblance of normality returns.  Notaries have public duties and Rule 21 of the Notaries Practice Rules 2019 deals with the provision of Notarial services under the heading of ‘Supervision of a Notary’s Office’

R. 21.1 A notary shall take reasonable steps to ensure that every office where he practises is and can be seen to be:

21.1.1 open, save exceptionally and for a good reason, during normal office hours for the provision of appropriate notarial services to members of the public; (our emphasis).

It would be difficult, we believe, for anyone to successfully argue that these are anything other than exceptional times, so any decision by an individual notary not to provide their normal notarial services at the current time would be fully understood by the Faculty Office if there were to be a complaint made against a Notary and we will take a proportionate approach to enforcing rules on notaries working through the Covid-19 crisis.

Continuing Professional Education

We are aware that many of the CPE courses which the Notaries Society and Notary Training were scheduled to run have had to be postponed or cancelled.   Both providers are working on online CPE courses which either already have been, or will shortly be accredited under the Notaries (CPE) Regulations 2010 and we are aware of other providers who are also aiming to have online courses available in the coming weeks.     There will therefore be ample supply of online courses to enable notaries to achieve the required three accredited points as part of their annual six point CPE requirement before the Autumn.

Supervision

For notaries who are currently under supervision and their supervisors, we are content that any supervision meetings required by the rules can be conducted by Skype, Zoom or other online platform provided that adequate arrangements for electronic inspection of documents, protocols etc can be arranged between supervisor and supervisee.  The requirement for physical visits is waived until such time as the current lockdown and social distancing guidance from the government remains in place.

For further guidance see the Official Government response  “Business and other Organisations” Coronavirus (COVID-19): UK government response – GOV.UK which, whilst not specific to Notaries, provides useful information.

Whatever pressure is put upon you to provide Notarial Services, your own health is paramount – where you can, work from home, and above all stay safe.

Resumption of limited Legalisation Office service from Tuesday 7 April

The following message has been issued by the FCO today (3 April)

Dear colleagues

The FCO is very grateful for your patience whilst we worked to reopen part of the Legalisation service, and for the feedback you have provided us with on your priorities and needs.

We have been authorised to re-open the business drop-off counter in Milton Keynes from Tuesday 7 April for existing customers of the service, subject to the following restrictions:

  • Customers will initially be limited to approximately 50% of their average daily volume when the service resumes to enable us to manage the resulting flood of applications. Registered users of the business counter will receive an email direct from the team informing them of their daily allowance. This limit will be kept under regular review, and as soon as we are able to increase the daily number of documents submitted we will let customers know.
  • We rely on customers of the counter to plan their applications accordingly, prioritising their backlog so that those with the most urgent need are submitted first.
  • The counter will initially be open for four days a week (Monday to Thursday) to enable us catch up on any backlogs which develop during the week and to ensure that we can continue to support urgent legalisations. This too will be reviewed regularly, and increased back to five-day opening as soon as we can.
  • We will not, for the moment, be increasing the number of registered users of the counter. This is to keep the number of customers arriving at our offices each day as low as possible in line with government guidance about minimising unnecessary travel. Any customers who wish to submit an application should do so through one of the existing agents registered with the service. Agents can be found by searching online for ‘UK Legalisation services’ or ‘UK Apostille services’, but please ensure that they are registered with the Legalisation Office as a business customer. Again, we will keep this under review in the light of any changes to government guidance on essential movements of people.
  • The urgent legalisations mailbox will remain open for any customers with very urgent requirements, especially those with one-off needs which might be less suitable for handling through an agent. Customers should continue to contact urgentlegalisation@fco.gov.uk to arrange this; we will not be able to accept any urgent documents which have not been initiated through this route.
  • Business drop-off customers attending the counter in Milton Keynes MUST:
    • Ensure that individuals attending the counter are fit and well
    • Ensure that all instructions about social distancing, queuing distances, hand hygiene and any directions given to them whilst they are on our premises are followed
    • Ensure that applications handed over the counter are securely wrapped in a clean plastic outer cover or box which can be wiped down by our staff, and that the papers within them have been handled by as few individuals as possible in a cleaned environment.
    • Respect the daily limits applied to them; any applications in excess of this will be returned without being processed.

I would be grateful if you could pass this on to your colleagues. The website will be open for business counter users to submit applications from today, and any customers with questions should contact your.businessapplication@fco.gov.uk and we will do our best to help.