Being subject to a regulatory investigation and/or disciplinary action by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) is deeply stressful and can ruin successful businesses and/or personal careers. I have extensive experience in advising and representing accountants who are subject to an investigation by the ACCA. As I also represent clients facing Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) investigations, I have an in-depth understanding of professions relating to accountancy and finance. In addition, I understand the scope of the ACCA’s powers and will quickly act on any actions outside the regulator’s authority.
ACCA Investigations/Disciplinary Actions
As a fellow professional, subject to a strict ethics and a Code of Conduct, I understand the pressure faced by accountant’s undergoing investigation. I will be at your side from the very beginning, answering regulatory questions, gathering evidence to support a robust defence, and attending interviews. With hard work, dedication, and commitment, I can assure you that by instructing me directly, you can be confident of quality legal advice and representation. I will use every tactical step available to end an investigation as quickly as possible, so you can go back to running your business.
How does an ACCA investigation start?
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 independent assessor.
What is the role of an independent assessor?
An independent 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 them to the ACCA Disciplinary Committee for a full hearing.
This is an opportunity to provide your version of events and to seek to persuade the independent assessor that the complaint should go no further. I can provide accountants with strategic advice on the best approach to take at this stage and can prepare written representations to seek to achieve the best possible outcome.
What does the ACCA disciplinary committee do?
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 produce their findings on the factual allegations. They will also decide whether the factual findings amount to misconduct. If so, the Committee will then 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 regarding 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.
What is a resolution by 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.
What is the 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.
Can I appeal an ACCA decision?
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 the decision. Appeals can be heard by the ACCA Appeal Committee.
I am deeply passionate and committed to ensuring my clients receive a vigorous and direct defence and to ensuring the ACCA does not exceed its regulatory powers.