acid-washer.jpgInstructing an ACID Accredited Law Firm

Key changes to anti-money laundering laws have changed the procedure for instructing an ACID Accredited Law Firm (“ALF”) or indeed any law firm. Understanding these changes will help ensure that your legal issues can be addressed by your ALF quickly and efficiently.

For some time, law firms have been obliged by law to perform anti-money laundering checks on new clients before providing any advice. This often means certain documentation must be provided to prove your or your company’s identity.

These laws have recently been tightened up, as follows:

If you or your company are not already regulated by anti-money laundering laws, or cannot verify your identity “automatically” under the rules, e.g., as a subsidiary of an existing client of the ALF both of which are unlikely then identity documents will usually have to be provided.

These must include:

  1. A photo verifying your appearance
  2. Your full name
  3. Either your current address or your date of birth

For an individual and, for a corporate member, the same documentation from at least two directors, plus any individual with more than a 25% interest (e.g. shareholding) in the company.

The best forms of identity document for all three purposes are a valid UK passport or UK or EU photo driving licence (although limited other forms of ID are acceptable).

Your ALF must see the original (not a photocopy) of that document, or receive a copy certified as a true and accurate copy of the original by a “person authorised to vouch” (e.g. a solicitor, accountant, bank etc). In practice, it will be far quicker, cheaper and easier to adopt the first route and have the document securely delivered to the ALF, who can then return it by the same method.

As an alternative to the above, members can ask a person authorised to vouch (again, a solicitor, accountant or bank, etc) to provide a letter confirming that they have verified your / your company’s identity and enclosing their evidence of this. However, this route is unlikely to be used often, as those persons may well be reluctant to comply.

Commenting on the recent change in the law, Mark Heritage of ACID Accredited Law Firm Hammonds said, “In practice, we are advising that members provide passports or driving licences by secure delivery. This is because, as mentioned, the “easy option” of a vouching e-mail has now dropped away and an actual letter is needed, but is unlikely to be provided. Occasionally, we will be able to verify “automatically” (e.g. if the ACID member is a subsidiary of an existing client) but again, this is unlikely. In our experience, therefore, the provision of original ID documents is likely to be the quicker / easier / cheaper route for members”.

Further guidance will of course be given once an ALF is instructed, and a detailed e-mail will be circulated to members shortly. However, while these rules are an annoyance, there is no way around them. Therefore, the best approach is to have the relevant documents “ready to go”, to ensure that your ACID ALF can advise as quickly as possible.

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