Getting a handle on your FINTRAC obligations

FINTRAC a.k.a the guys responsible for the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act.  The very mention of the agency can send shivers down the spine. Just what is it about FINTRAC anyways?

Is it because the legislation is complex? Hmmm… maybe…. but tell a colleague that privacy law is for simpletons and you’re likely to be met with an icy stare.

What about the fact that FINTRAC has the power to administer monetary penalties? Hmmm…true… yet monetary penalties exist under other Acts, including the Competition Act and with respect to the Canadian National Do Not Call List rules.

So just what is it then?

I have a theory.

Unlike many other areas of the law, which define behaviour that must be avoided by REALTORS® (e.g. thou shall not send spam emails; thou shall not conspire, etc.) Canada’s FINTRAC regime requires REALTORS® to take proactive steps in order to stay on side of the law (e.g. thou shall implement a compliance regime; thou shall identify your clients, etc.). Simply operating your business as if the FINTRAC regime doesn’t exist can mean you break the law. Combine that with the factors mentioned above and FINTRAC can seem very scary indeed.

It doesn’t have to be. It can be pretty easy in fact. Whether you belong to a brokerage that has a longstanding FINTRAC compliance regime or you’re just setting one up for the first time, a good first step to ensure you have a handle on your FINTRAC obligations is to take stock of the resources already out there:

  • The Act and regulations: fun reading for lawyers perhaps (we’re an odd bunch) but not so much for REALTORS®. Still, it doesn’t hurt to know that they exist.
  • FINTRAC’s guidelines: these guidelines can shed light on some common questions. Bookmark these websites. Also check out FINTRAC’s real estate “cheat sheet”, which summarizes the general obligations of REALTORS®.
  • CREA’s guidelines and resource material in the Legal Compliance Centre on REALTOR Link®: these include FAQs, template forms, or simply plain-language versions of FINTRAC’s guidelines and the Act and regulations. Bookmark these as well.
  • Your firm’s FINTRAC compliance manual: this should set out firm-specific policies and procedures on how to comply with the FINTRAC regime. If you’re not the firm’s compliance officer (discussed below), this may be the only material you’ll ever consult.

There are also people resources. FINTRAC has a phone number you can call: 1 866 346 8722. You can also contact your Board, which in turn can contact CREA for legal assistance, if necessary.

Finally, keep in mind that most FINTRAC obligations will likely fall to your broker who will delegate the day-to-day work to your firm’s FINTRAC compliance officer.  If you have a FINTRAC question, he/she is the best person to start with.

The FINTRAC regime may always seem a little scary.  But with some guidance – stay tuned for more – it is possible to comply in a very short time.

The article above is for information purposes and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.

Simon Parham, Legal Counsel, is always on hand to provide helpful advice to CREA, Boards, and Associations on all aspects of federal legislation that can be reduced to an acronym, including: PIPEDA; FINTRAC; and the DNCL. In his spare time, Simon enjoys running, camping, discovering the world with his daughter, and planning his “big year.”

2 thoughts on “Getting a handle on your FINTRAC obligations”

  1. I have been appointed fintrac compliance officer for Nu Stream Realty and want to write our compliance manual.
    I have been unable to find anything on crea or GVREB websites to assist me or give me an example. Any help would be great.
    The hi lighted links on this article do not work

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