|Author (Person)||Chapman, Peter|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.10, No.42, 2.12.04|
By Peter Chapman
ACCOUNTANTS want equal treatment with other professions such as lawyers in the scope of new EU money laundering rules.
The industry, including auditors and tax advisers, must abide by strict rules limiting their confidential client relationships for the whole range of their services.
For example, they would be obliged to take on the role of sleuths, gathering information and tipping off watchdogs of any suspicious behaviour that they unearth during a company audit.
But the current draft says that lawyers and notaries are only obliged to follow a fraction of the requirements - for example when they are helping clients to buy real estate. Lawyers aim to limit their obligations further under the law.
The inequality is not fair, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales warned MEPs in charge of scrutinizing the directive this week.
The institute points out that an anti-money laundering hit-list drawn up by the international 'Financial Action Task Force' at the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development treated the different professions equally.
Critics of the draft law also warn that it would place more obligations on EU professionals than their US counterparts, a big gripe for firms and corporate clients involved in global operations.
“Lawyers and accountants are both spectacularly unscathed in the US as far as I can tell,” said one industry executive.
The equality issue is one of a raft of concerns the accountants cited at this week's meeting with deputies. The profession says it is concerned about the failure to iron out differences in approach between member states on the scope of the law.
Maltese Socialist MEP Joseph Muscat says that he is “sympathetic” to the industry's concerns. He is drafting a report for the economic and monetary affairs committee.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Jennings, a partner with Ernst&Young, said the biggest accounting firms opposed extra, and more onerous reporting responsibilities - such as those imposed by the money laundering directive - until they had secured a safety net from unlimited financial liability if they were sued for failing to perform their duties. This is the norm in many member states, including the UK. Jennings, who leads a 'European Contact Group' of leading auditors, is pressing for an EU-wide cap on liability to be included in a separate law on auditing, currently under MEPs' gaze.
Until liability is addressed, Jennings said, firms “cannot be blamed for being risk averse”.
Article reports that accountants were claiming equal treatment with other professions such as lawyers in the scope of European Commission proposals on the third money-laundering Directive. The industry, including auditors and tax advisers, would have to abide by strict rules limiting their confidential client relationships for the whole range of their services.
|Subject Categories||Justice and Home Affairs|
|Countries / Regions||Europe|