STATEMENT on the report by the IBA-OECD Task Force on The Role of Lawyers and International Commercial Structures

14.02.2020

The Secretariat of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the IBA examined the role of lawyers in detecting, identifying and preventing unlawful conduct in commercial transactions, in particular transactions of an international nature.

This report is rejected in its entirety because it is mistaken with respect to the very essence of the legal profession. Dissociated from the statutory professional regulations and ethical standards governing the legal profession, incorrect judgements are made about lawyers’ professional practice and their very profession.

1. Neither the OECD nor the IBA has any formal or substantive powers for issuing such a report. All the relevant statutory regulations, codes of conduct and professional ethics pertaining to lawyers themselves are ignored.

2. The report also ignores the fact that lawyers operate within a variety of structures and provide a multitude of services in different jurisdictions.

It is a contradiction in itself to want to promote a culture of compliance and at the same time criminalise the legal profession as a whole.

The uniform approach adopted in the contested report is therefore also incorrect because it ignores the diversity of lawyers’ activities and the different risks involved.

3. Basing itself on criminal offences committed by individuals, the report generalises the conduct and/or omissions of all lawyers as sanctionable and generally considers lawyers to be the accomplices of their criminal clients.

4. In particular in the context of international transactions, lawyers are accused of misusing legal professional privilege and the impression is given that lawyers are only commissioned to break the law and thereby themselves act illegally.

5. This report deliberately discredits the standing of lawyers in Europe.

The general criticism that lawyers should do more to deter clients from paying bribes is completely unfounded. 

6. It is indiscriminately implied that bar associations in Europe are not in a position to maintain order and discipline their members accordingly.

Everyone knows that the contrary is true.

7. The report is an obviously politically motivated and an all too transparent attack on a lawyer’s right to – and duty of – legal professional privilege. It does not contribute to global stability because it constitutes a direct attack on clients’ rights.

The European Bars Federation (FBE) rejects this report in its entirety for being incorrect and for discrediting the profession.