Failure to provide information costs practitioner £5kby
A sole practitioner has been severely reprimanded and handed a £5,000 fine, plus ordered to pay costs of more than £8,000, after he failed to provide the ICAEW with requested documents.
Jeffrey Davidson, who up until this point had an unblemished career as a member of the Institute for 35 years, faced disciplinary action after he failed to comply with two formal letters referring to two complaints from ICAEW.
The tribunal highlights the importance of providing information to your professional bodies if requested promptly and within the timeframe - otherwise, you could be in line for a hefty fine.
He was first asked to provide documents and information relating to a complaint on 23 August 2021 but did not do so. Davidson was then asked to provide another set of documents and explanations on 18 November 2021, and while he did engage with the ICAEW on this occasion, he failed to send any of the requested information.
Misconception, not defiance
When the issue was taken to the disciplinary tribunal, as documented in October’s disciplinary orders, Davidson first denied both complaints, but at the start of the hearing he switched from denials to unequivocal admissions of both complaints.
During the hearing, Davidson claimed that his misconduct wasn’t fuelled by defiance, but instead was caused by “misconception”. He was under the impression that the laws of confidentiality and privilege prevented him from disclosing the information sought by the Institute.
The London-based chartered accountant pointed to his correspondence with his solicitors, where in a letter dated 6 May 2022, there were references to his conflicting rights in law and his obligations to ICAEW.
Davidson’s correspondence from his solicitors was used to highlight his initial confusion and misconception as the reason for not providing the information.
The solicitor correspondence in May 2022 noted that after receiving “robust advice” Davidson fully understood his obligations as a member of ICAEW to provide the requested documents and that any legal privilege that might exist did not prevent him from complying with his obligations to his regulator.
Initially, the tribunal accepted that for the first complaint, Davidson seemed to be under the misapprehension that he couldn’t respond because of his obligation as a valuer. However, he still didn’t produce the documents even after ICAEW explained the position.
Tribunal didn’t accept misconception
While the tribunal considered Davidson’s claim of ‘misconception, it concluded that this submission did not hold any weight as a mitigating factor for the second complaint after he emailed ICAEW in October 2021 saying that he was “in the middle of preparing a response which will be with you shortly”.
As further proof, he also appointed a solicitor in December 2021 who wrote that they had been working with Davidson to collate the information requested and that the evidence still needed to be redacted to remove personal information.
The solicitor also added that they were in the process of preparing responses to the requests for explanations but this is taking some time. They concluded that Davidson was “keen that his response is as full and accurate”.
The tribunal acknowledges that there had been some response on Davidson’s behalf, but the relevant information was still not forthcoming. So it decided that an appropriate punishment would be a severe reprimand and a financial penalty of £5,000.
In addition to the sanctions, the tribunal also ruled that ICAEW was entitled to costs £8,125.
Since the evidence and information were still outstanding, the tribunal also set another deadline for that, too. Davidson was given 28 days from the date of the order to provide that information initially requested in August 2021 and November 2021.