Russia-Ukraine conflict

STEP statement on Ukraine

At STEP we are united in our condemnation of the violence and aggression that has led to the unfolding human tragedy in Ukraine. Our thoughts are with the people in Ukraine, as well as our colleagues, members and their clients who have families and loved ones in the country and elsewhere who are affected.  

As a global organisation with members across 100 countries advising families on planning their assets across generations, we recognise our role in highlighting the responsibilities of our members in relation to the various sanctions and other restrictions on Russia and Belarus. We also recognise our role in setting and upholding high ethical standards to ensure our members act with integrity and conduct themselves in a manner that inspires the confidence, respect and trust of their clients and the wider community.


Below we have published guidance for members in relation to sanctions on Russia and Belarus and members' responsibilities in relation to these. We have also listed some ways in which members can help at the end of this page, and will keep this updated.

Additionally STEP Europe Chair Paolo Panico TEP has produced a Position Paper to provide some guidance for trust and company service practitioners on the prohibition that the European Commission has imposed in relation to European Union (EU) Member States providing certain services to trusts and similar legal arrangements with a Russian connection:

We will continue to monitor the situation and publish updates accordingly. We would encourage members to look out for our regular Industry News Digest enewsletters, where we will report on the latest actions taken by governments in response to the situation.

    Sanctions: what you need to know

    Following the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation on 24 February 2022, the majority of governments have imposed a number of financial sanctions on Russia and on targeted individuals and organisations. Sanctions have also been imposed on Belarus.

    The sanctions are aimed at encouraging Russia to cease actions that destabilise, undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty or independence of Ukraine.

    We have produced the following note to highlight the sanctions currently in place and provide information on the steps that members and member’s firms must take to comply with and uphold these sanctions. We will update this as necessary.

    General

    In general, the UK, EU and US have committed to ensuring that a number of Russian banks are removed from the SWIFT messaging system.

    Restrictive measures have been imposed that prevent the Russian Central Bank from deploying its international reserves in ways that undermine the impact of the sanctions.

    Additionally a transatlantic task force will be launched that looks at ensuring the effective implementation of these financial sanctions by identifying and freezing the assets of sanctioned individuals and companies that exist within the above jurisdictions. The work also involves engagement with other governments to detect and disrupt the movement of illicit money, and to deny these individuals the ability to hide their assets in jurisdictions across the world.

    The situation has also fast forwarded work on transparency and the implementation of registers of overseas entities (particularly in the UK), which will require anonymous foreign owners of property to reveal their real identities to ensure criminals cannot hide behind secretive chains of shell companies.

    Due to the large number of sanctions, this note only covers those that have generally been imposed in a unified manner. The list of sanctions per jurisdiction (UK, US, EU, Canada, Japan, Australia and Switzerland) can be found below.

    The sanctions regimes impose serious and extensive restrictions on dealing with the individuals or entities listed.

    What you must do

    Firms must have appropriate policies in place to ensure they comply with sanctions legislation, including undertaking regular and appropriate checks of sanctions lists.

    If you find out that a person or organisation you are dealing with is subject to the financial sanctions, we strongly recommend that you follow the guidance set out by the relevant sanctions legislation

    Firms should check the financial sanctions lists before offering services or undertaking transactions for clients. If an individual is on the sanctions list and subject to an asset freeze, firms may not deal with those funds or make resources available to that person.

    Firms must also ensure they comply with any reporting obligations if they suspect a customer is a designated person under the financial sanctions regime.

    Breaching the financial sanctions requirements can result in a criminal prosecution or a fine.

    When carrying out your firm’s anti-money laundering (AML) risk assessment, you should consider how likely it is that your clients may be on the sanctions lists.

    The regimes list can help you assess risk, but bear in mind there may be some retainers where it is not immediately apparent that a person or entity may have some connection to a relevant regime.

    STEP would strongly advise that members fully understand the origin of any assets under the ownership and control of their clients.

    Members that have reporting obligations under local legislation or have concerns about sanctions evasion or money laundering should make a report to the relevant agency(ies).  

    Members are advised to check the latest sanctions list and any local guidance regularly.

    Your professional standards obligations

    We would like to take this opportunity to remind members about their obligations under STEP’s Codes of Conduct:

    • Members have an obligation to comply with the law, nor shall they knowingly provide active assistance to clients to breach the laws and regulations of any jurisdiction to which the client is subject.
    • Members must act honestly, and shall decline to act and withdraw their representation if they know, or have reasonable grounds to suspect, that carrying out their client’s instructions would involve assisting in an illegal activity.
    • Members shall act with integrity and conduct themselves in a manner that inspires the confidence, respect and trust of their clients and the wider community. Members shall not engage in conduct that brings into question the integrity of the Society or their own professional integrity and competence.
    • Members shall provide objective advice and exercise independent professional judgment. Members should not permit their independence, objectivity or integrity to be compromised.

    We would encourage members to review their existing business as relevant in light of the current situation.

    We would also strongly encourage all members and their firms to review their risk assessments and governance arrangements to ensure that they are sufficiently robust in meeting AML regulations, and that all staff have received appropriate and up-to-date training.

    List of sanctions

    Australia

    Canada

    EU

    Japan

    New Zealand

    Switzerland

    UK

    US

    What can members do to help?

    We have been asked by some members about ways to help.

    If you are looking at ways you can help practically, the following coalition has been formed by lawyers, law firms and NGOs to provide practical assistance and advice on critical legal issues: https://ukrainejusticealliance.com/

    For those wishing to donate money to the crisis relief effort, there are a number of charitable foundations collecting funds and supplies. Below are some links to international appeals:

    If we hear of other ways that members can help, we will add these here.