The main asset of any professional is their reputation. In the career of any accountant they can expect to receive several complaints against them. How you deal with such a complaint often influences how you will be disciplined.
If you are a chartered accountant who is subject to disciplinary proceedings on foot of a complaint then read carefully the following top 10 tips:-
- Don’t ignore the complaint – most disciplinary actions are avoidable but for accountants sticking their head in the sand.
- Do reply to the correspondence from the Chartered Accountant Regulatory Board (CARB) investigator. Many sanctions are imposed because the accountant refused to engage in the process.
- Do contact your practice consulting representative in the ICAI. They are there to help you rather than judge you.
- Maintain a full file. Often disciplinary proceedings are decided on the oral evidence of the complainant as the complainant is generally given the benefit of the doubt. Documentary evidence is given greater weight that oral evidence by the disciplinary committees.
- Be careful how you reply to a notification of a complaint. Quite often accountants deliver a prompt reply without giving thought to the consequences. Vagueness attracts suspicion. Non reply implies guilt. Specificity with supporting documents is the key. Keep the tone objective and respectful.
- Engage legal support promptly. Lawyers are a necessary evil. They will assist in communications with CARB with an eye on the longer term impact of admissions or denials.
- Review the rules. There are many and there are many updates of the rules which can be overwhelming. Familiarise yourself with the possible sanctions.
- Check out the results of previous similar decisions made by CARB. This can be a guide as to what sanctions may apply.
- Prepare a table of proofs that you will rely on to address each element of the complaint. The process is daunting so don’t lose sight of the big picture, which is your defence.
- Engage experts. Ignore your instinct to save money. An expert who prepares a report and gives evidence to support your Defence is worth their weight in gold.
Larry Fenelon is a litigation partner in Ogier Leman. He specialises in professional indemnity claims against accountants and regularly represents chartered accountants before CARB. Email: email@example.com or call 01 6393000.
This publication is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal or professional advice. No liability is accepted by Ogier Leman for any action taken or not taken in reliance on the information set out in this publication. Professional or legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this publication. Any and all information is subject to change.