I was pondering because I happened to notice a few days ago, on the SRA Question of Ethics page, a note about the operation of client accounts and how evil it was to have the interest paid into the client account because the interest on a general account is office money (at least in SRA land it is - IPREG may have other ideas but I doubt it). In any event the interest on the overpaid sum of £35 that came from an Australian client and which would have been lost in exchange rate differences and banking fees if I had paid it back was going into my client account. Oh woe! Now don't worry that client account has always been IPREG regulated so I wasn't about to get hung drawn and quartered as promised by the helpful Ethics police at the SRA. Even so I got in touch with my Bank (Barclays fortunately not a Building Society) and they have made me honest by directing the interest to my office account. OK so if you have set up your client account in readiness you too might want to check where the interest will go.
Meanwhile the Bar Standards Board have started an escrow service BARCO regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. If you use that they charge you 1% but it seems to be capped at £250 per transaction. Presumably you have to pay that out of your funds rather than the client's so I'm not thinking of using BARCO myself for that overpaid £35. If you charged the £250 to the client would that be "protecting client money" - the tenth SRA principle.?
Next I heard from ITMA via their Chief Executive's Bulletin today (4 December 2014):
Unfortunately the current banking practice only allows true client accounts to be opened by a profession included in Schedule 3 of the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 and currently the IP profession is not included in this schedule making it difficult for those bound by the new rules to comply. The new Rules are due to come into force on 1st January 2015 and we have written, together with CIPA, to IPReg to request they delay bringing into force the new rules until it is possible for our relevant members to fully comply. We will advise as soon as we have any further information on this matter.Its very easy to blame "banking practice" and I would be interested if others have found difficulty with the mainstream banks. I didn't and all litigators have needed to have client accounts for a while.
I was surprised to hear that postponement of the rules was being requested on my behalf. The bar has managed to prepare itself and given that we nearly always deal with business clients we should be able to manage a client account or credit risk by now. Moreover delaying the new regime would presumably knock back those who are ABS and want to offer more co-ordinated business and IP advice to their clients.
Anybody know more about this? Please comment