Top Shipping Law Firm Admits to Anti-Money-Laundering Failures

Singapore freight forwarders – Star Concord
09-Jan-2024

The UK law firm Clyde & Co. has admitted to a failure to comply with British anti-money laundering regulations, and it will have to pay a substantial fine. 

The UK’s Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has been investigating Clyde & Co. and one of its former shipping partners, Ed Mills-Web, for potential money laundering due diligence failures. Clyde & Co. self-reported the matter in question in early 2019 when it suspended Mills-Web and referred him to the SRA for investigation. 

Mills-Web ultimately resigned, along with four senior colleagues. Together they set up a new legal consultancy, Preston Turnbull LLP, focused on shipping disputes. The firm is a top-ranked London shipping law firm in the Chambers & Partners ranking, and four of its lawyers – including Mills-Webb – are on its top-performance list. 

Mills-Webb remained under investigation for his past activity at Clyde & Co. SRA ultimately decided to charge both Mills-Web and Clyde with “breaches of the money laundering regulations and procedures relating to a client and companies used by the client.” On Tuesday, Clyde & Co. and Mills-Webb both admitted to the breaches and agreed to pay fines of $125,000 and $19,000 respectively. 

Clyde & Co. is one of the world’s oldest operating shipping law firms, after the collapse of long-tenured Ince & Co.  The case is the second SRA enforcement action against the law firm since 2017, when three of its partners were fined and the firm was ordered to pay about $60,000 – at that time a record amount for the SRA – in connection with other alleged money-laundering breaches.

Going forward, under the UK’s new and much more stringent Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act, the SRA can impose unlimited fines on law firms or solicitors in connection with economic-crime cases.

“Solicitors should keep at the front of their minds that they can not only be struck off but also imprisoned if they do not abide by the legislation,” warned Clyde & Co. in a bulletin last year. 

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