Is my Secret Service badge and pay in the mail?

Over the weekend I read in the Vancouver Sun how a retired Richmond homeowner lost title to his bungalow to con artists. The fraudsters also got away with a mortgage scam worth $400,000.

The failure of the banks, lawyers, land title office, etc., to verify both parties to the transaction is scandalous in itself.

Since there is clearly challenges at the above, and other institutions (FINTRAC, CSIS, RCMP, etc.), Realtors and Brokerages have been enlisted, effective June 23, 2008, as intermediaries to help raise suspicions and for the discovery of proceeds of crime in real estate transactions.

At our brokerage office meeting this morning we were reminded of these new Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) requirements that come into effect today.

Identifying money laundering or the financing of terrorist activities has now been added to my job description and these changes will require me to collect more private information than ever before on behalf of the federal government and Canada’s financial intelligence unit.

The forms required include: risk assessment; individual client identity; corporate or “other entity” identification; and, receipt of funds record.

Furthermore, I have a responsibility to review and collect private information from the person wanting to provide their own representation (as in, for-sale-by-owner) in a real estate transaction. If I am now obligated to maintain the confidentiality of that person, then does the term “No Agency” become obsolete?

What concerns me the most though is why this responsibility is being imposed on Realtors. The parties who are directly involved in the financial transaction itself are the banks and the lawyers, so why aren’t they held to an even higher responsibility and standard? Realtors on the other hand are removed from the source of funds, collecting only the deposit in the form of a bank draft (never cash), which is normally about five per cent of the purchase price, and handed in immediately to our brokerage for deposit in a trust account.

So why would the federal government misplace the emphasis and waste so many bureaucratic resources on Realtors instead of the banks and lawyers? Go figure!

Please comment about your apprehension, support, views, or experiences as things unfold.

2 thoughts on “Is my Secret Service badge and pay in the mail?”

  1. The following report by REM’s Kathy Bevan comes from CREA President, Calvin Lindberg:

    Where there does appear to have been a breakthrough for CREA with the federal government is in its lobby efforts to have FINTRAC’s latest regulations revised, in regards to how they would impact Realtors. While supporting FINTRAC’s focus on eliminating money laundering and terrorist financing, CREA has been outspoken in its criticism of new regulations that Lindberg contends was asking Realtors to “basically be the eyes and ears of government” in filing suspicious transaction reports.

    During CREA’s recent Political Action Committee (PAC) Days in Ottawa, 300 of CREA’s PAC representatives met with MPs. The key item on each of their agendas: to discuss the changes CREA felt were necessary to make it possible for Realtors to comply with the FINTRAC regulations. At the same time, CREA asked for – and received – a meeting with senior policy advisors in the Department of Finance, to talk about this same issue.

    “Out of all this, we got a letter from Minister Jim Flaherty that they agreed with us, and they are going to issue an Order in Council to amend the regulations that dealt specifically with two or three of the most contentious issues we couldn’t comply with,” says Lindberg. “We go to Ottawa every year as PAC reps, and it’s almost like we’re not getting anywhere – but here’s a situation where it worked beautifully and we got a response right away. We still have another five issues that we are negotiating with them and they told us they’d go through each one individually and have an answer for us.” -posted: 6/23/2008

    Whatever this means I haven’t a clue but I am curious as heck to find out.


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