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11 Apr 2016

Peter J. Henning, New York Times (USA)

Panama Papers Show How Lawyers Can Turn a Blind Eye

During the savings-and loan-crisis in the early 1990s, the question “Where were the lawyers?” was asked about the wrongdoing taking place at numerous banks. The confidential documents known as the Panama Papers…provides one possible answer: The lawyers have always been right in the middle of it…Lawyers in the United States are not required to comply with anti-money laundering compliance procedures imposed on financial institutions that require gathering information about the identity of account owners and the source of funds or assets. By avoiding the duty to inquire about their clients, lawyers can turn a blind eye by focusing only on what the client wants without asking the harder questions about what led to seeking legal advice.

Limiting the tools for helping clients engage in misconduct would make it harder for lawyers to claim they are only serving the wishes of those clients.