The stated aims of the ACCA are to uphold professional standards and to protect the public. Where ACCA disciplinary action is being considered, the regulatory body will always take into account the public interest as well as the member’s interest.
Complaints about members of the ACCA are normally made by clients, other accountants, public authorities or can be initiated by the ACCA themselves. The ACCA’s Professional Conduct Department investigates complaints against members. ACCA disciplinary action only occurs when there is evidence of a serious failure to observe their standards.
The Professional Conduct Department will then write to the accountant, enclosing a copy of the complaint and inviting observations from the accountant. Caution should be exercised before responding to a complaint without legal advice, as this is a crucial stage in the investigation and it is essential to achieve the right tone from the outset.
It is not uncommon for the investigatory process to take up to 6 months. The Professional Conduct Department may decide to close the investigation or to refer the accountant to an assessor.
Consideration by an Independent Assessor
The assessor will consider the evidence as well as written representations from the accountant, before deciding whether there is a case for the accountant to answer and if so, whether it is necessary to refer the accountant to the ACCA Disciplinary Committee for a full hearing.
This is a real opportunity to provide your version of events and to seek to persuade the independent assessor that the complaint should go no further. Our lawyers can provide accountants with strategic advice about the best approach to take at this stage and can prepare written representations to seek to achieve the best possible outcome.
ACCA Disciplinary Committee
If a member is referred to the ACCA Disciplinary Committee, a formal disciplinary hearing will be listed in due course. In the hearing, the Committee will hear evidence and legal representations from both sides and will then make their findings on the factual allegations. They will also decide whether the factual findings amount to misconduct. If so, then the Committee will hear representations in relation to the most appropriate sanction and also any costs order.
The ACCA publishes a Guidance to Disciplinary Sanctions which provides the accountant and the Disciplinary Committee with guidance about what may be the most appropriate sanction to impose. The guidance can be found online here.
When deciding on the most appropriate sanction, the Disciplinary Committee will take into account aggravating and mitigating factors, such as the member’s previous disciplinary history, evidence of insight, remediation, personal mitigation and the impact of actions on others.
The sanctions which the ACCA Disciplinary Committee can impose are:
- No further action;
- The waiver or reduction of fees to a client;
- Compensation to a client up to £1000;
- Fine up to £50,000;
- Severe reprimand;
- Exclusion from membership.
Resolution by a Consent Order
In relation to allegations of minor misconduct, it may be possible to agree with the ACCA a consent order, to resolve the proceedings without the need for a full hearing before the Disciplinary Committee.
A Consent Order Committee will consider the proposed consent order. They can confirm, amend or reject the consent order. The focus of the Consent Order Committee will be to ensure that the proposed Consent Order provides an appropriate resolution to the case.
ACCA Interim Order Committee
In some situations, the ACCA may hold an interim order committee hearing, to consider imposing an interim sanction, whilst the substantive allegation is investigated.
In the event of an adverse outcome, the accountant can apply for permission to appeal the decision. An appeal should be based on an error of fact or law in the original proceedings. This application must be made within 21 days of the accountant receiving the written notice of decision. Appeals can be heard by the ACCA Appeal Committee.
How we can help
At Richard Nelson LLP we have experience of representing accountants and we understand the significance of regulatory proceedings both personally and professionally. We will work with you to ensure that we achieve the best possible outcome.
If you, or someone close to you, is facing disciplinary proceedings by the ACCA, then please contact us without delay for a confidential discussion about the best way forward.
Get in touch
For more information about the services we can provide and about how we can help you and your business, contact us.
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What we do...
Our solicitors can support you at every stage of the ACCA disciplinary process. Our services include:
- Advice and guidance throughout an investigation;
- Defending you in an ACCA disciplinary hearing if necessary;
- Provision of advice and representation, where necessary, in an appeals process.
If this isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, our other accountancy law services include: