ICAEW disciplinary round-up July 2017

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Richard Hattersley
Community correspondent
AccountingWEB
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This month’s ICAEW disciplinary orders includes incidents concerning LinkedIn, an undeclared assault and practising without a certificate.

LinkedIn job fails to connect                            

It’s not uncommon for professionals to embellish their CV or job history, but for one unnamed ICAEW member a LinkedIn untruth, along with other factors, resulted in a disciplinary order.

The complaint

The member known only as X in the disciplinary orders described himself on LinkedIn as the owner of an accountancy firm. The only trouble is that the firm was actually owned by a family member and X did not, in fact, hold a practising certificate.

ICAEW first became aware of X’s LinkedIn misrepresentation in January 2013 after it received a screenshot tip-off of the member’s profile. The institute informed X that he needed to amend his LinkedIn information and obtain a practising certificate. X explained that he was running the firm because a family illness incapacitated the sole proprietor of the business.

But this was not the end of the story, as a few months later a senior case manager checked the member’s LinkedIn profile and claimed that X still described himself as the partner of the firm. However, the senior case manager did not take a screenshot of X’s profile. During the tribunal X’s representative argued that it would have been “extremely stupid” for X to describe himself as a partner given the ongoing ICAEW investigation.

The representative suggested that the case worker, who no longer works for the ICAEW, may have confused X with another family member’s LinkedIn profile. The case officer’s claim could also have been clouded by a heavy workload of 300 cases, and the fact that this had not been her case.

X did get a practising certificate on 23 June 2014, with the application approved a month later – just before the owner retired at the end of September. 

Reasons for decision

When making its decision, the tribunal took into account that X did not require a practising certificate before the retirement of the family member and a print-out from February 2014 of X’s LinkedIn page showed that he no longer described himself as the owner.

Sentencing order

X accepted that he was in breach of ICAEW rules and wrongly stated that he was the owner/partner. While X’s LinkedIn claim dropped below the standards of an ICAEW member and did practice without a certificate between February and April 2013, the ICAEW ordered that he pay the £1,500 costs.

Undeclared assault

Another case also demonstrated why an accountant’s actions outside the profession, whether online or in this case before receiving a practising certificate, matter.

The complaint

Patrick Morello was severely reprimanded for failing to report to the ICAEW an assault conviction and imprisonment almost a decade before he received his practising certificate.

Morello was sentenced to three months imprisonment after he head-butted a man in February 1995. He claimed the head-butt was in retaliation to the man mocking his friend who died. The second incident happened two years later when Morello threw a bucket of flowers at a police officer during an anti-vivisection demonstration. He was arrested and sentenced to three months imprisonment.

The following year Morello let his practising certificate cease and sought work outside the profession. Morello returned to the profession and was granted a practising certificate in 2013, but didn’t report his convictions to the ICAEW until 2015.

Reasons for decision

The tribunal concluded that Morello was liable for disciplinary actions because he failed to report his conviction and sentencing, and his conduct would likely bring discredit to the profession.

Sentencing order

Morello was severely reprimanded and ordered to pay the costs of £3,000 in 12 monthly instalments of £250.

Engaged in public practice without certificate

Thomas Williams was excluded after telling the ICAEW he would not be renewing his practising certificate because he was retiring – except Williams continued to offer accountancy services to the public and received fees.

The complaint

Williams ‘retired’ in late 2011, cancelled his PII policy and told the institute that he had transferred his clients to his son-in-law and would act as a consultant to that practice. In reality, not all of these clients transferred.

Williams wrote to the ICAEW four times in 2016; first to tell the Institute that he assumed he still held a practising certificate. He subsequently said that his firm does not hold itself out as chartered accountants, but accountants, and that “a number” of clients did not wish to be transferred to his son-in-law.

Reasons for decision

Williams had been an ICAEW member for 58 years and had no previous disciplinary record. Despite this mitigating factor, the tribunal could not overlook the fact that he allowed the ICAEW to believe that he retired from private practice when he had not.

In its sentencing, the tribunal said that it was a “matter of regret” that Williams ended his career as a chartered accountant this way.

Sentencing order

Because Williams continued to practise despite not being licensed or insured against professional negligence, the ICAEW excluded him with the costs of £2,561.50. 

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