There are few things more fatal to an accountant’s career or the health of an established firm than serious accusations of money laundering. Accountants from diverse backgrounds at various levels of professional success inevitably face these accusations, and need to be prepared to deal with them. So how should your firm – and how should you as an individual – move to protect yourself from false accusations?
Rely on the advice and follow in the footsteps of accountants who have endured money laundering accusations in the past, and you’ll quickly find yourself and your firm protected from even the fiercest charges of wrongdoing.
Learning to protect yourself
The first thing you should understand about accusations of money laundering is that they don’t always imply malice or planning; often times, accusations of money laundering stem entirely from negligence on the part of an accountant or firm, and could have been avoided if due diligence had been paid to typical security and professional protocols. Preventing criminal activities is one of the most vital aspects of any accountant’s career, even if it’s seldom discussed in firm meetings or during training sessions. So how can you insulate yourself from charges of money laundering?
When it comes to preventing accusations of money laundering, the best thing you can do is to prevent the crimes from ever happening in the first place. That’s why you should frequently review the red flags of money laundering that often fly by unnoticed, and take steps to review what anti-money laundering steps your firm has taken recently. If you or your firm aren’t regularly undertaking inquiries to see if you’re not accidently complicit in money laundering, you’re opening yourself up to accusations in the future that could tank your business.
Learning how to avoid being an unwitting professional exploited by criminals isn’t easy, but is certainly worth your times and efforts if you don’t want to accidentally end up with legal charges knocking on your front door. Take steps to ensure everyone involved in the financial processes of your firm is up to date with your ethical code, and that proper security measures are in place to prevent cyber intrusions which are becoming all too common in today’s digital age.
Your firm should also take steps to ensure everybody knows how to report suspicious activity, as you don’t want to let something slip through the cracks that you may have otherwise been commended on for having caught. Unfamiliarity with governmental processes when it comes to dealing with these financial crimes if often one of the leading reasons innocent accountants end up getting accused of wrongdoing, so staying up to date and informed is vital if you want to remain free and in compliance with all laws.
Scrutinizing your clients
While it may not sound savory, the truth of the matter is that the most effective way to fight money laundering accusations is to closely scrutinize the intentions and behavior of your various clients. While no accountant should be expected to be a masterful detective that clearly identifies financial crimes before they happen, everyone should be expected to be up to date on governmental standards and to keep a close eye on your client’s behavior.
Learning to detect inconsistencies in the information provided to you by prospective clients, for instance, will go a long way towards protecting yourself from accidentally bringing on a bad customer who goes on to get your firm in trouble. There’s a good chance that if you receive a request or message from a client that seems nonsensical or poorly explained, it’s a sign of shady behavior that warrants further investigation. Rather than facing a potential loss of your licensing or, even worse, time in prison, you should err on the side of caution when it comes to analyzing your client’s actions and motives.
There’s no excuse for being ignorant of the law; while regulations governing finances are deeply complex out of necessity, it’s never too late to brush up on the latest standards and to run a performance review to ensure that everyone in your firm is properly briefed when it comes to money laundering. At its heart, money laundering is moving cash from one place to another, meaning your accountants and your entire firm will doubtlessly be blamed if or when something goes wrong, so don’t let yourself be caught flat-footed.
Don’t be afraid to shun outsourcing, and to keep your work and anti-laundering protocols internal; the more you rely on part-time workers or outside help, the more vulnerable you may be to falling victim to money laundering scams. By briefing your team members regularly and keeping a close eye on every transaction you’re involved with, you’ll do much to combat the scourge of money laundering while simultaneously keeping yourself safe from criminal charges.