Solicitors will have to pay a large part of the costs of setting up a new quango to oversee their regulators’ efforts to combat money-laundering, it has emerged. Bills to cover the £2.25m initial cost of the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS) will go out in January 2019, the Financial Conduct Authority said.
OPBAS was announced by the government last year to 'ensure the professional body AML supervisors provide consistently high standards of supervision’.
In a policy statement this morning following a consultation, the FCA rebuffed calls for the quango to be paid for by general taxation rather than bodies funded by the professions they regulate. 'We do not have the power to use taxes to fund OPBAS,’ the statement says. A Law Society spokesperson said the announcement contained no surprises: the key question is what share of the costs will have to be borne by solicitors. With some 85,000 members likely to be subject to regulation, Chancery Lane will be one of the largest two or three contributors. 'The bill is bound to be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds,' a spokesperson said.
The FCA's response acknowledges that the consultation revealed widespread scepticism about the new body. 'Many respondents prefaced their comments on the fees … with expressions of reservations about the remit of OPBAS, its anticipated resources and running costs,’ the FCA states.
The Law Society said that professional body supervisors will ‘wish to see a clear strategy and business plan put in place’ to justify the costs. It noted that some 85,000 solicitors, including wills, trusts and property practitioners, would fall under OPBAS’s jurisdiction. 'It is incumbent upon OPBAS to keep the costs to be borne by the regulated population to a minimum.’
According to today’s statement, OPBAS will recover costs of £2.25m in 2018-19, made up of annual running costs of £2m the first instalment of £0.5m set-up expenses. Professional bodies will also pay a fee of £5,000 to request OPBAS to recommend to the Treasury that they be added to the list of 'professional body supervisors’.
The FCA is now writing to 22 such bodies asking them to submit data for calculating fees by 2 July. 'We will consult on the fee-rate in the autumn,’ the announcement states. This will be finalised in December 'so that we can issue invoices from January 2019’.