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Accountant turned farmer makes pig’s ear of practising certificate

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A Swansea-based accountant who swapped number-crunching for farming has been excluded from ICAEW after he received farming services in exchange for him providing accountancy services, without holding a practising certificate.

20th Feb 2023
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As reported in February’s disciplinary orders, Stephen Bloomer was fined £7,000, ordered to pick up the costs of £12,350, given a severe reprimand and excluded from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) after the tribunal heard how he had practised for a lengthy period of time without a practising certificate when he was a livestock farmer. 

In sentencing the chartered accountant, the tribunal noted that there was a “wilful disregard” in Bloomer’s conduct and raised concerns that the accountant-turned-farmer did not recognise the importance of obtaining and maintaining a practising certificate. 

Sheepish admission

Bloomer changed career in 1995 to become a livestock farmer. Soon after, the ICAEW and CIOT member started to barter transactions, where he offered his accountancy services in exchange for farming services such as fencing, animal welfare and handling. 

He didn’t claim fees at first, but by the time he returned back to providing accountancy services in 2001 he admitted that he had been accepting fees for ad hoc services but he couldn’t recollect for how long. 

It was only when Bloomer applied to the ICAEW’s quality assurance department in May 2019 for AML supervision that the institute discovered that he didn’t have a practising certificate and he had not been supervised for AML purposes or subjected to quality-assurance reviews.  

Fielding questions 

Bloomer claimed that when he started providing ad hoc services he was advised by the ICAEW that he “did not require a practising certificate providing I did not hold out as a ‘chartered accountant’”. But he had no evidence to support this claim as he only used the telephone. 

Despite Bloomer’s claims that he thought he was conducting his affairs in the correct manner, the disciplinary notes put the onus on ICAEW members to ascertain whether they are in public practice and those providing services without the certificate for free or a nominal fee face exclusion. 

It wasn’t until September 2020 that he received a practising certificate. Prior to that he did not have an AML supervisor, which is a legal requirement since the introduction of the money laundering regulations 2007.  

Bloomer argued that he was very selective about his clients and that clients joked about his rigorous interview before taking them on. “As such, none of my clients are in any way money launderers,” concluded Bloomer. 

There were also questions then why Bloomer asserted on his CIOT annual return that he was supervised for AML by ICAEW before he was granted a practising certificate for 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020 but curiously not 2018.  

Bloomer said he didn’t know why he made these declarations on the CIOT annual return, offering instead that he must have once mistakenly ticked something on his annual return and it auto-generated each year.  

There was also the issue of Bloomer’s engagement letters; ICAEW’s professional conduct department (PCD) raised concerns that he didn’t notify clients of complaints procedures. The PCD in January 2020 asked how clients not issued with an engagement letter were able to raise a complaint. Bloomer responded a month later saying that all clients were given a sample letter but conceded that not a single letter had been returned and that the sample letter didn’t include their right to complain.  

Home to roost

The tribunal was clear that the work Bloomer was doing was not “peripheral to another undertaking” and was central to the practice of accountancy, and as such needed a practising certificate – something Bloomer neglected to have for over nine years. 

This led the tribunal to conclude that Bloomer appreciated “the need to recognise the importance of obtaining and maintaining a practising certificate” and saw the failure more as an “administrative and technical failure”. 

The tribunal viewed Bloomer’s failure to get a practising certificate as extending beyond inattention to “a deliberate unwillingness”. 

Finding that Bloomer didn’t have a practising certificate, no AML supervision and that his engagement letter templates didn’t conform, the tribunal decided to impose a financial penalty of £7,000 and ordered he pay costs of £12,350. 

Bloomer was excluded for practising without a practising certificate, but practising without AML supervision was a criminal offence and attracted a severe reprimand.

Jessica Brown from Blake Morgan commented:

“The ICAEW has maintained that it is the responsibility of members to ascertain whether they require a practising certificate. It is also the responsibility of members to understand and comply with the rules and requirements of the ICAEW. In the decision, the tribunal acknowledges that there can be complications in determining when a valid practising certificate is required. Specialist lawyers can assist in advising on the rules and requirements where these complications exist. 

“Mr Bloomer’s lack of practising certificate also left him with a lack of AML supervision. If Mr Bloomer had a practising certificate then he could have had AML supervision from the ICAEW. AML supervision is a strict legal requirement under the Money Laundering Regulations 2007, breach of which is a criminal offence.

“The tribunal considered it an aggravating factor that Mr Bloomer had not responded positively to the ICAEW’s attempts to help him alter his template engagement letters. Clearly it is not going to go down well with the tribunal if a member is unable to demonstrate insight or a willingness to change. The way a member conducts themselves prior to and during a hearing will often have a significant impact on the outcome, and the importance of good preparation and representation cannot be overstated.”

Blake Morgan’s accountancy regulatory team is available to assist with any disciplinary, regulatory and compliance matters arising in the accountancy profession. Click here if you require any of their services.

Replies (17)

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By Justin Bryant
20th Feb 2023 13:09

He's hardly a swine and at least it does not look like he was telling porkies here (just a bit pig-ignorant by the look of things).

Presumably Jessica Brown could have saved his bacon in place of his own ham-fisted approach to things - that left him rather scratchings around for excuses.

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Replying to Justin Bryant:
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By legerman
20th Feb 2023 14:02

Justin Bryant wrote:

He's hardly a swine and at least it does not look like he was telling porkies here (just a bit pig-ignorant by the look of things).

Presumably Jessica Brown could have saved his bacon in place of his own ham-fisted approach to things - that left him rather scratchings around for excuses.

What a load of paloney!

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Replying to Justin Bryant:
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By johnjenkins
21st Feb 2023 10:00

What's the name of the farm "Trotters independent traders".

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Replying to Justin Bryant:
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By Dib
21st Feb 2023 16:04

Yeah, he hardly had his snout in the trough did he? How was he caught, did someone squeal?

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By Hugo Fair
20th Feb 2023 13:11

Doesn't this case reek of a penalty for "failing to park in the designated spot of company's car park" rather than for the likelihood that the person may therefore be perceived as "a dangerous driver"?

Who (other than the ICAEW) is being protected from what?

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By legerman
20th Feb 2023 13:59

So he's been fined £7k with £12k costs, are these enforceable? Thought fines could only be enforced by public bodies.

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Replying to legerman:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
20th Feb 2023 15:41

I believe it is enforceable for member, ex-members and those that resign before the hearing, I don't know in practice if the ICAEW go after it, but I cant imagine them letting anyone off the hook.

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Replying to legerman:
7om
By Tom 7000
21st Feb 2023 09:35

Yep, should have just resigned 20 yeats ago, saved the fees and fines. I have people telling ne you only need to be in if you want to be an auditor otherwise what are you paying for.....

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By Postingcomments
20th Feb 2023 16:08

So he will just now practice without any regulation? Other than HMRC AML.
Slow hand clap for the ICAEW and their role of protecting the public...........

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Replying to Postingcomments:
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By paul.benny
20th Feb 2023 17:12

"Accountant" is not a regulated title and so ICAEW cannot prevent a non-member from practising. What would you have hem do in this scenario?

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Replying to paul.benny:
the sea otter
By memyself-eye
20th Feb 2023 19:01

Orf with his head I say!

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Replying to paul.benny:
paddle steamer
By DJKL
21st Feb 2023 10:01

Something fitting , the punishment fitting the crime- boiling oil, perhaps.

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Replying to Postingcomments:
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By Sandnickel
23rd Feb 2023 08:55

As he has been sanctioned by ICAEW, its likely HMRC won't supervise him for AML purposes meaning if he did continue to provide accountancy services it would be a criminal offence.

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Replying to Sandnickel:
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By johnjenkins
23rd Feb 2023 09:17

I doubt if HMRC would get involved let alone be interested as long as they get their few hundred quid.

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By RogerMT
21st Feb 2023 10:11

The fines this guy got are completely out of proportion to the "crime" he committed., and it shows up what a farce the whole system is. The little guy is expected to jump through labyrinthine AML hoops, at no little cost, for no discernible benefit, other than jobs for pen pushers at supervisory bodies. All the time the further up the greasy pole you get the more corrupt the system is, and the easier it seems to be to get away with all sorts of sharp practice. The system is so hypocritical.

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By AndrewV12
21st Feb 2023 10:19

'Bloomer argued that he was very selective about his clients and that clients joked about his rigorous interview before taking them on. “As such, none of my clients are in any way money launderers,” concluded Bloomer. '

The trouble is we all think like that, all my clients are local, its best we all register for AML.

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By Mr J Andrews
21st Feb 2023 12:42

Will HMRC take note, I wonder , of the dubious cessation in practice , the initial barter system followed by acceptance of fees............ but not remembering for how long ?
Pigs may fly.

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