Trust No One Except Me – FINTRAC

No Choice

It’s a fair assumption to say that Realtors® don’t like being FINTRAC‘S collection agency. Yet it’s the law and it’s what we must do.

Not The Only Ones

A recent report by CBC tells us that Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart is –
blasting the federal agency that is supposed to be gathering financial intelligence on suspected terrorists and money launderers, but has also collected personal banking records of thousands of ordinary Canadians not suspected of anything.
magnify-glass-eye

She says that FINTRAC “has far too many files that have nothing to do with terrorism or money laundering.”

Get Along

It is what we Realtors® must do.

While selling or buying a Vancouver home we sheepishly slip out CREA’S prepared FINTRAC form and ask buyers and sellers of Vancouver homes to provide information that has little to do with our job of facilitating a successful purchase and sale transaction.

I suspect that if you ask any Realtor® they will tell you that they feel like they are a third rate cop working without pay for a nebulous arm of the government hell bent of finding nefarious monies earned via terrorist of laundering transactions.

Too Much

According the CBC, Stoddart’s reports that “FINTRAC has amassed over 165 million reports containing personal information about financial transactions.”

Referring to Stoddart’s report, CBC quotes her saying that

“essentially, FINTRAC receives and keeps information about innocent transactions, about Canadians who have absolutely no guilt, no reason to be in a database that is characterized by … suspicion of illegal activities.”

Living in Fear

Chantal Bernier, deputy privacy commissioner, said the current situation is unacceptable. “The law imposes fines up to $500,000 for a bank or other business (including Realtors®), not reporting a suspicious transaction, but no penalties at all for reporting something completely harmless.”

It is that fear that compels Realtors® to collect the data and submit it to FINTRAC.

Realty

FINTRAC spokesperson Peter Lamey says the agency has about 350 employees and receives more than 20 million reports a year, and can’t effectively screen them all. He admits “in that number, there are going to be transactions that don’t meet the legislative threshold.” But the solution, he says, is for the banks and others to be more selective about which transactions they flag to FINTRAC in the first place.

While that may be all fine and dandy with Mr. Lamey the reality is that it is mandatory that we Realtors® must include in our real estate transaction documentation a completed FINTRAC form. Who are we to challenge FINTRAC and the %500,000 fine. Would you?

Equal Measure

I’m consider myself a seasoned astute Realtor®. I get a quick sense of intent from a person buying or selling real estate. My knowledge experience and guts tell me quickly when something is untoward. While others may not be so endowed and choose to engage, I instead choose to withdraw.

It is unfortunate that I am obligated to operate under the duress of the threat of a massive financial sanction to collect private data about people whom I consider rock solid Canadians.

It rattles my earned and self proclaimed sense of integrity when I feel forced to always consider someone a potential perpetrator of terrorism or a party to laundering the proceeds of crime.

Uncomfortable

It leaves me in a state of discomfort. While I ask you the seller and buyer of a Vancouver home to trust me as your Realtor® I am precluded by law from giving you that trust in equal measure.

Quotes CBC

About Larry Yatkowsky

Larry is a recognized real estate expert. A veteran professional, his experienced counsel leads Vancouverites in his west side community to place their trust in a man passionate about his work. Uncompromising ethics bring a balanced approach to realizing your real estate dreams.

When Life Moves You - contact Larry:

*Disclaimer: Statistics Courtesy REBGV. While believed to be accurate they are not guaranteed.
**Numbers provided may vary as they are dynamically posted by the REBGV.

Reader Comments:

rf Says:
October 28th, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Get over yourself, Larry. You sound like ever other 50+ year old I supervise in the financial industry. They all think AML rules are beneath them and they are so experienced that everyone should understand why the rules should not apply to them.
If you really believe that Vancouver real estate is not rife with laundered money and that you are beyond being fooled by a sophisticated criminal, I’ve got oceanfront property in Arizona to sell you.

October 31st, 2013 at 1:12 pm

@rf

With respect – you sound like someone who blindly considers every rule to be gospel.

I never suggested that the rules were beneath me, on the contrary I like you, are governed by them nor have I suggested that Vancouver is not rife with laundered money. It may be.

However, I do believe there are exceptions that require a more reasoned approach. For example I contend that it seems unreasonable to insist that someone who has lived in the same house for 30+ years and is a long vetted retired professional should be subjected to FINTRAC’s intrusion. In this particular example the only transgression (if any) that might occur takes place during a bridge game.

To that end it would seem that Chantal Bernier, deputy privacy commissioner is of similar opinion.

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