Choosing my words carefully

I think I have mentioned to you that a couple of weeks ago I had a call from a researcher at the BBC, asking whether I was a money laundering investigator.  I explained that I wasn’t and off he toddled.  But over twenty years (dear heavens) of AML training, I have become quite strict with myself about the use of certain vocabulary.  (OK, my natural pedantry probably calls to me too, as does my degree in English – when, for instance, did the perfectly sensible “bulk standard”, meaning ordinary and unremarkable, morph into the bafflingly nonsensical “bog standard”, apparently meaning bad?)  But in order to make my meaning as clear as I can, and to explain the split of duties and responsibilities in the AML world, I am scrupulous about using and repeating the right terms in the right places.

My key one is the distinction between reporting and disclosure.  I know that the legal terminology – which includes the offence of failure to disclose – muddies the water a little, but I make sure that in the Grossey World of AML, staff report to their MLRO, and MLROs disclose to the FIU.  And then it is obvious, when I talk about reports and disclosures, which part of the process I am discussing.  Personally, I think this is clearer than “internal report” and “external report”, as it suggests that it is not simply a passing on of the same piece of paper – as all MLROs know, a disclosure is a significantly different beast to a report.

And my other particular bugbear is the use of the word “investigate” in the MLRO environment.  MLROs (and their staff) are not investigators: they are professionals working in the regulated sector.  I know it sounds picky, but if you use the word “investigate”, it frightens people and sets up false expectations of what they should be doing.  So when it comes to considering whether they are suspicious, staff should be encouraged to make enquiries, to conduct more due diligence, to ask questions, to consider further – but not to investigate.  And when their report is passed to the MLRO, he should then analyse it, consider it, corroborate it – but not investigate it.  He then discloses to the FIU, and, yes, they investigate.  Simples.

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2 Responses to Choosing my words carefully

  1. David says:

    If I may be mischievous, the Isle of Man guidelines issued by the IOMFSA do say that licenceholders should investigate when applying appropriate scrutiny – para 7.5.2. It uses the word seven times in all, through things as various as reports to CDD.

    I believe the island’s Anti-Terrorism and Crime Act 2003 makes/made it a requirement to adequately investigate the suspect funds (the word appears in the extract in the Handbook but not in the online version of the Act).

  2. Many thanks for this, David – I hadn’t clocked that. And far be it from me to criticise a regulator or indeed government, but I hold to my position: I think telling regulated sector staff that they are required to “investigate” both frightens them and sets expectations about duties for which they did not sign up. Perhaps I should offer to rewrite the IoM legislation and/or guidance – now wouldn’t that be cheeky for a non-Manx non-lawyer!
    Best wishes from Susan

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