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Disciplinary: Sacked accountant warned clients of firm 'screwing up' accounts

A dismissed accountant at his “wit’s end” slipped off with his former employer’s client list and sent a disparaging email detailing the firm’s HMRC inspection and “negligence” in preparing a client’s VAT return.

22nd Oct 2019
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Swansea-based accountant Dafydd Rhys Hopcyn-Kitchener has received a severe reprimand from the ICAEW after a bitter falling-out with his employer triggered him to take a client list and email at least ten of his former firm’s clients with the subject line: “Have they screwed up your accounts?”

Hopcyn-Kitchener conceded to the ICAEW disciplinary tribunal that he now realises he made a “huge and inexcusable mistake” and that he is ashamed of his actions. He said at the time of sending the email he was “being hounded by debt collectors and was struggling to make ends meet”.

‘If you want a real accountant…’

Hopcyn-Kitchener sent the email including these words three months after his employer terminated his employment due to performance concerns in December 2014. 

In the email, Hopcyn-Kitchener outlined an HMRC inspection from 2013 where he claimed the “so-called accountants” had been “negligent” in preparing a client’s VAT returns for two years and that the client now owes £25,000 in unpaid VAT. 

“[The accountancy firm] made a mess of [the client’s] accounts. What have they done to yours?” he wrote. “Believe me, is the tip of the iceberg… If you want a real accountant, I will be pleased to assist you” 

Then, he signed off the email: “Who do you want working on your accounts? Dafydd Hopcyn-Kitchener ACA CTA or ‘[Mr E from the accountancy firm]’ TWAT?” 

His former employer reported the incident to the ICO, the police, and asked that Hopcyn-Kitchener destroy the information – not least because they contended that the email disclosed confidential information about a client.

Hopcyn-Kitchener maintained to the tribunal that the content of the email was truthful and the accounts filed at the FSA public register support his stance. Although he accepted that he was “not in his right mind” when he sent the email, he insisted that he did not gain any clients from the correspondence.

Lapsed membership

The final complaint the tribunal considered concerned Hopcyn-Kitchener incorrectly describing himself on his CV as a member of the ICAEW. 

Shortly after his fractious dismissal, Hopcyn-Kitchener told the tribunal that he was struggling with debt and could only find short-term, low-paid jobs. He therefore let his ICAEW membership cease on 11 July 2014.

However, he had “carelessly” described himself on the CV sent to recruitment agencies and potential employers as an ICAEW Chartered Accountant.

The ICAEW got wind of this incorrect description and in a telephone conversation with the Professional Conduct Department, Hopcyn-Kitchener admitted that his present employer wasn’t aware of his lapsed membership and feared he may lose his job if they found out. 

Although he agreed to discuss it with them in July 2016, his employers were not aware that his membership had ceased when they checked his reference in September 2016.

He later confessed to the tribunal that he was embarrassed that he could not afford the ICAEW membership fee and regretted not discussing this with his employers at the time.

The decision

The ICAEW tribunal recognised the unhappy domestic and financial circumstances that led to the defendant moving back home and becoming increasingly responsible for his unwell mother and viewed most of the complaints against Hopcyn-Kitchener as coming under the less serious category.

The ICAEW disciplinary tribunal considered a severe reprimand with no financial penalty a proportionate sanction. Having considered Hopcyn-Kitchener’s financial means, he was ordered to repay costs in the sum of £6,000.

Chris Cope, solicitor/ director of Accountants National Complaint Services Limited, commented

This is one of those cases where a personal appearance before the tribunal, without legal representation, is advisable. That should not be interpreted as an indication that the defendant ought not to be legally represented, which is, of course, their right.

However, the tribunal needs to hear from the defendant in person. He would be expected to explain his conduct, describe why he did it, apologise and state his circumstances at the time. Details regarding his present employment, health, finances and domestic situation would also be helpful.

If you are presently subject to a complaint, you can call the Accountants National Complaint Services Limited for advice (01769 581581) or visit their website

Replies (17)

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By Tosie
22nd Oct 2019 10:18

Another poor person being forced into bankruptcy due to mental health issues.

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By tracey2412
22nd Oct 2019 10:21

disrespectful - yes. unprofessional - definitely! inexcusable - probably. but the chap clearly needed help long before he got to the stage of sending the letter. We never know what someone else is going through unless we take the time to ask & see.

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By AndrewV12
22nd Oct 2019 10:24

Firstly are these names real,..... I assume so.

I have heard of quite a few employees who leave an Accounting Practice, and un-ethically tap up all clients of his/her former employer , it happens and normally goes un- punished. However Dafydd Rhys Hopcyn-Kitchener took it to a new level, I would imagine Accountants who act like that probably cover their tracks better and make phone calls. Dafydd Rhys Hopcyn-Kitchener recorded it in emails.

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By bobsto12
22nd Oct 2019 10:31

The stress of being dismissed must be horrendous and getting revenge must be a basic human urge.

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By Mr J Andrews
22nd Oct 2019 11:18

Both sad and stupid . Considering the self destructive approach by the Swansea man,the relatively low penal consequence must reflect the sympathetic understanding of his mental state at the time. Harrowing.

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Replying to ImmanuelLieber:
panda ketteringUK
By ketteringUK
23rd Oct 2019 18:34

Maybe, ICAEW rather prefers to spend the money on the ridiculous bulldog brexit cards than actually support their, not necessary wealthy members.

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wolfy
By rob winder
22nd Oct 2019 11:49

If he is skint where do they think he is going to get £6000?

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Chris M
By mr. mischief
22nd Oct 2019 17:31

Meanwhile the house is on fire. Audit reports have never been of poorer quality in the past 25 years. if the ICAEW would JUST ONCE discipline and chuck out the repeat offenders at the top of the large UK practices whose fingerprints are time after time all over their unqualifed dodgy audits, I would have a bit more respect for the way they bully and hound the small fry.

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By Ken of Chester le Street
23rd Oct 2019 11:24

The accountant couldn't afford his subscription.
35 years ago, when I was in a similar position, I approached my Institute, who graciously waived the subs for that year. Perhaps they have kinder hearts north of the Border, or did in those days.
Requiring £6000 costs from a man in his position is monstrous. I'm sure ICAEW could afford it.

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Replying to ImmanuelLieber:
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By Ken of Chester le Street
23rd Oct 2019 14:47

I hope he gets to read that.

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Replying to ImmanuelLieber:
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By Ken of Chester le Street
23rd Oct 2019 14:47

I hope he gets to read that.

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Replying to ImmanuelLieber:
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By Sheepy306
23rd Oct 2019 18:57

Is that definitely correct? The Solicitors Regulation Authority for example hold the member personally liable for its (equally extortionate) costs regardless of whether you’re still a member or not. I suspect there may be small print in our membership terms along the same lines, otherwise yes I’d agree that you that I’d simply walk away from any such order.

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Replying to ImmanuelLieber:
By Ruddles
23rd Oct 2019 23:07

You really ought to carry out some research before posting such unsubstantiated drivel.

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Replying to ImmanuelLieber:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
24th Oct 2019 15:16

My understanding as an ICAEW member is that as part of membership, you agree to be bound by any such fines even if your membership has lapsed.

That is to say it is enforceable, should the ICAEW chose to enforce.

Quite frankly I think its not that unfair to get a reasonable fine for something like this. This is not just a minor breach, actively stealing your ex-employers client list is highly unethical act. You just don't do it. To then go on to actively slag them off (substantiated or not) is deeply unprofessional, as well as being rather dim commercially.

I do however agreed that of more use would be pursuing ethics in Audit which is what really tarnishes our brand, rather than individuals losing the plot and doing something stupid.

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Replying to Ruddles:
wolfy
By rob winder
24th Oct 2019 19:54

1

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By Ian McTernan CTA
23rd Oct 2019 14:35

So they waive a penalty due to his circumstances but throw £6k costs at him? Tells you all you need to know about those side the ICAEW is on...

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Chris M
By mr. mischief
24th Oct 2019 11:40

With perfect timing this article came only a day or two before the one on the well dodgy Thomas Cook auditors. Who is the greater rascal?

Hopcyn-Kitchener or

The Big 4 partners who are happy to give any old drivel a clean audit report, regardless of the consequences on holidaymakers, depositors (all the dodgy bank audits) and shareholders.

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