An experienced EY audit manager who improperly claimed over £2,000 in expenses on meals, snacks and alcohol over a four-month period has been excluded from the ICAEW and ordered to repay costs of £13,000.
Through over-claiming expenses of £2,564.82 Ricky Vadera also lost his job. Before the ICAEW disciplinary tribunal, he fully accepted that he had acted dishonestly, but as part of his defence, he also laid blame on the culture of expense claims within the firm.
Vadera’s high level of expenses caught the attention of the firm during a comparison exercise, when the description of the expenses he provided did not match the receipts he produced. Other expenses outside the firm’s travel and expenses policy were ‘bundled’ with other receipts.
Suspicion surrounding Vadera’s high level of expenses sparked an internal investigation, which led to a disciplinary meeting in November 2015. During this meeting Vedara was found to have over-claimed expenses. The amount he owed was deducted from his final salary.
Broken down, the June to October 2015 expenses included £796.51 for meals, £141.43 on snacks and £858.38 on alcoholic drinks.
Vadera claimed he ‘bundled’ his expenses together with other receipts as a consequence of time pressures. However, the investigation committee argued that the sheer number of expenses suggested that the bundling “goes further than carelessness or mistakes”.
Rather, the committee found the mis-description of items and incorrect allocation to be dishonest, given that Vadera understood the travel and expenses process.
The tribunal, considering the code of ethics obligation for members to be straightforward and honest, found “Vadera has not been straightforward, open or transparent in his handling of his expense claims and would have known the importance of doing so for the purpose of claiming money back from his employer. Indeed, it was his duty to be so.”
Combined with Vadera’s admissions, the tribunal unhesitatingly concluded that the 64 separate claims were carried out dishonestly and decided that the proportionate sanction was exclusion.
The tribunal also ordered Vadera to pay the investigation committee’s costs of £13,000 in 11 monthly instalments.
The internal disciplinary hearing took place in November 2015. Mr Vadera was sacked. The ICAEW disciplinary hearing was not convened until June 2019, some three and a half years later.
No explanation for this delay is given. I assume that the firm would have reported Mr Vadera immediately following the hearing in November 2015.
This is yet another case which has taken an inordinate amount of time to reach the disciplinary committee.
Committees need to be much more critical of delays on the part of the regulator. If the regulator fails to provide a reasonable explanation for the delay, the costs sought against the defendant should be slashed.
The tribunal is now chaired by a Queen’s Counsel. There are three who take it in turns to chair disciplinary hearings. May I very respectfully suggest that they each take a critical look at delays on the part of the regulator, together with the massive costs which are now being incurred on a regular basis.
However, in all fairness, the disciplinary committee in Mr Vadera’s case did seek representations from both parties on the subject of costs and decided that £13,000 was a reasonable figure.
Unfortunately, the report does not tell us how much was originally sought.
If you are presently subject to a complaint, you can call Chris Cope for advice (01769 581581) or visit his website