секреты:does big law have a Russian problem?

Friday’s* Guardian had a really interesting and detailed story on money laundering. It is well worth a few minutes of anyone’s time. Professional commitment to money laundering regulation has always been somewhat equivocal. I have heard senior, well-respected lawyers say money laundering reporting requirements had signaled the death-knell of professionalism. But I want to concentrate on a more specific element of the story, and share an experience of my own.

The story highlights MPs censuring Linklaters for a:

decision to advise on the stock market listing of an energy company belonging to the oligarch and Kremlin insider Oleg Deripaska, months before he was placed on the sanctions list by the US government.

Linklaters said its 70-member team in Moscow, which includes 12 partners, followed the highest standards and abided with all regulations against bribery and corruption, anti-money laundering and sanctions.

It reminded me of an approach I received from a young lawyer at a large, well known, London HQed firm who had come from their Moscow Office. That young lawyer had just heard me give a talk on the professional responsibilities of solicitors and solicitors firms. Those responsibilities included, I had told them, protecting the rule of law and administration of justice and the obligation to not allow one’s independence to be compromised. I discussed things like wire-stripping by banks.

I should state unequivocally that the young lawyer was not a Linklaters lawyer.

The young lawyer was plainly anxious and asked me whether such obligations applied to English firms practising in Russia. We discussed that. I asked if they had thought about discussing those anxieties with anyone in the firm. They indicated that would not be welcomed. I asked her if she had discussed it with the COLP or the COLPs team at HQ. They indicated they did not know of that role. I then explained what the COLP was. Still a perplexed, anxious and rather embarrassed look of blankness. And then I gave them the name of the COLP, should she want to talk to them. They, of course, had not heard of them but I had.

* this article is a year old. Thank you to the person who pointed that out! The problem though remains

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