In marketing of the concepts of anti-money laundering (AML) and countering terrorist financing (CFT) governmental agencies and political journalist use interesting types of framing.
Financial and legal service providers, like lawyers and auditors, are framed by governmental authorities as assistants of criminals, through the ‘facilitator’ frame. The ‘facilitator’ is anyone playing a role in the business structures of criminals, with or without knowledge. It is a very efficient way to criminalize all service providers and to my opinion is an example of a government that acts against basic principles of sound government (‘maatschappelijk onbetamelijk’). I wrote several blog posts on the subject.
This year the OECD copied the facilitator frame in a report criminalizing all service providers related to tax and white collar crimes, in the report with the beautiful name ‘Ending the Shell Game: Cracking down on the Professionals who enable Tax and White Collar Crimes‘ (you can’t say OECD doesn’t understand political marketing).
In the OECD document the facilitator is replaced by ‘enabler’, but the concept remains the same. The suggestion is that those who wittingly assist criminals are easy to identify and that it is easy for lawyers, auditors and others involved in company structures to identify criminals and a criminal source of wealth. It shows how international organisations like OECD and FATF do not understand the position of lawyers and financial service providers like auditors.
OECD proposes to take away professional privileges from lawyers, when investigating and prosecuting crime, a very dangerous idea that will undermine the independence of the legal profession.
The new slur: we are professional enablers
UK lawyer Goldsmith wrote an article on the enabler-frame as promoted by the Financial Accountability Transparency & Integrity panel (FACTI) and OECD. He ends his article with:
This is an urgent matter now. The phrase ‘professional enabler’ is being used too often these days against us. I have written repeatedly, for instance, about how it is used against lawyers in their role in contributing to climate damage as a result of lawyers who act for major carbon emitters. It is also heard in relation to lawyers who act for tyrannical governments in enabling them to carry out their schemes, no matter how much we say that lawyers should not be identified with their clients’ causes.
There is a danger that we are now near a tipping point, and as with one of former President Trump’s nicknames – Crooked Hilary, for instance – it will stick and define us. The Law Society and its international partners must act soon to counter the narrative.
I agree, the facilitator-framing has to end. Governments have to look for better ways combatting crime, especially because they are the most important facilitators of crime. They can involve lawyers and other service providers in a more adequate way than is now the case.
- Press release OECD, OECD calls on countries to crack down on the professionals enabling tax and white collar crimes.
- Page on the report: Ending the Shell Game: Cracking down on the Professionals who enable Tax and White Collar Crimes; English version (pdf).
Of course there is a simplistic youtube movie on the subject matter of the report:
Financial Accountability Transparency & Integrity panel (FACTI), a UN organisation, “the High Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda” (background):
- Jonathan Goldsmith, The new slur: we are professional enablers, 2 March 2021.
- International Bar Association the FACTI report: IBA President says FACTI report recommendation would undermine independence of the legal profession
Addition 18:35 hr
Also CCBE is involved:
Today, the CCBE meets with the @OECD to discuss the OECD Report on ‘Ending the Shell Game: Cracking down on the Professionals who enable Tax and White-Collar Crimes’ and the aspects which may impact the legal profession. pic.twitter.com/Kmx99GfkLZ
— CCBE (@CCBEinfo) July 19, 2021
Addition 29 July 2021
Europe is doing the same, EU-commissaris wil haast bij aanpak ‘foute’ belastingadviseur, 22 June 2021. On the one hand Europe through DAC6 is making tax advisors more important and on the other hand they are suggesting they are all assisting criminals. It is an improper way of acting.