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Retired accountant excluded for offensive emails

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A retired chartered accountant was excluded from the ICAEW and ordered to pay costs of £15,290 after sending obscene and offensive emails, including one where he referred to someone as the “scum of the earth”.

18th Sep 2023
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It can be easy for accountants to assume they only have to uphold professional standards within the confines of their work environment. However, a recent disciplinary case, as documented in the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) September judgments, underscores the importance of upholding these standards, even when you’re not practising or carrying yourself as a chartered accountant.  

Sexist and unprofessional emails

The case in question revolved around David Forge, an ICAEW member since 1981 who had not held a practising certificate since 2008 but still made direct references to his professional status. Forge’s behaviour was brought into question after he engaged in a series of offensive and derogatory email exchanges.

This included referring to someone as “scum of the earth” and in another exchange stating: “Dear, oh dear Ms D, haven’t you got anything better to do like washing up?”

The complaint began when Ms B, formerly the head of block management for the managing agents of a property development where Forge owned a property, left her position and joined a firm where Mr A was the director. 

This triggered a chain of events, with Forge defending his friend – the director of the firm Ms B used to work for – and accusing Ms B of fraud and lodging a complaint against her and Mr A with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. This marked the beginning of a dispute that spanned from December 2015 to December 2018 and was punctuated by a barrage of unprofessional emails.

In the first of the emails flagged in the disciplinary decision, Forge told Mr A: “You are in my opinion, the scum of the earth.”

While this was not said in a professional engagement, the tribunal pointed out that it was sent in a formal context relating to the management of the development, it was copied to 11 other recipients and amounted to discreditable conduct. 

Subsequent emails further violated the ICAEW’s code of ethics, featuring sexist language and derogatory comments This included, in January 2016, the use of sexist language such as “you stupid girl” and “knickers in a twist”. Further examples of unprofessional language in March 2016 were references to someone attending a “Mickey Mouse Accountancy School”. 

The worst example of his behaviour was in an email sent two days before Christmas when he made allegations of criminal behaviour against Ms B and threats of police arrest. “I believe a good time for the police to arrest working mothers is 11:00 on a Sunday morning so please listen out for the doorbell. It is more likely to be Santa this Sunday but next time it could be Mr Plod,” he wrote. 

Forge continued to target Ms B and Mr A with emails designed to cause maximum distress.

Tribunal’s verdict 

When the investigation committee asked whether Forge would attend the disciplinary hearing, he responded that he had “better things to do than waste my time on this nonsense” and resigned from the ICAEW. 

The investigation committee reminded him that members cannot resign while there is an ongoing disciplinary complaint, but Forge snapped back that he had been retired for 15 years. 

The tribunal proceeded in his absence, and although he did not provide a formal response, he maintained throughout his correspondence with ICAEW that his comments were “justified, appropriate and proportionate” and painted Ms B and Mr A as the aggressors. 

The disciplinary tribunal recognised that Forge was involved in a fraught dispute, but in light of the seriousness of his prolonged conduct, it concluded that his behaviour was incompatible with being a member of a professional body. 

The tribunal decided that the appropriate disciplinary sanction was exclusion from membership and ordered that he pay costs of £15,290. 

This case serves as a stark reminder that chartered accountants are expected to uphold professional standards, not only in their professional capacities but also in their interactions and conduct outside of their practice.

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Replies (33)

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By JustAnotherUser
18th Sep 2023 12:20

What I find most bizarre in the world of accountants is that this cost them £15,290.

I know its different but seen as were in the same Accountants Universe, It does make me wonder how much more effort and costs it is if we compare to a recent article where Mazars were hit with a £72k fine after audit failings.....

15k is the cost to validate a complaint vs 72k discounted fine where the cost to identify failure to comply with the Regulatory Framework must have been 10x the cost of validating these emails.... baffling.

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
18th Sep 2023 12:23

Sheesh, what a charmer.

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By Ian McTernan CTA
18th Sep 2023 12:34

Valuable take away from this is to resign as soon as you stop practising..would have saved him a fortune.

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Replying to Ian McTernan CTA:
RLI
By lionofludesch
18th Sep 2023 23:15

I did that.

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Replying to Ian McTernan CTA:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
19th Sep 2023 10:09

Ian McTernan CTA wrote:

Valuable take away from this is to resign as soon as you stop practising..would have saved him a fortune.

Also not being a massive [***] would have helped.

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By Tom+Cross
18th Sep 2023 13:31

Doesn't matter where we are in the world, there is a time and place for everything. I absolutely love other peoples company, and in certain circumstances, I will knock on the door of "naughty" humour. However, I never, ever, intend to be offensive and would hate to think that I ever have.
I have a daughter of my own and treat all ladies as though they were her.........with respect.
The buffoon (above) clearly had "no breeding" as my Mum used to say and was just an offensive twerp.

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By Truthsayer
18th Sep 2023 13:38

I have often wondered whether there is any need to pay the ICAEW anything when they make a disciplinary judgment if you no longer care about being a member. Private sector organisations have no power to levy penalties, so apart from threatening to exclude you, how can the ICAEW force payment?

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Replying to Truthsayer:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
18th Sep 2023 16:59

Members sign up to liability, which I understand is enforced. Naturally with a lot more costs.

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Replying to Truthsayer:
By Duggimon
19th Sep 2023 10:27

You have, through membership, effectively signed a contract stating that you will pay. Legally it's similar to any other contract and the debt will be enforceable in a civil court. You can't discharge the debt by resigning.

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By Tax is always taxing
18th Sep 2023 14:58

He resigned, but they still spent £15k in costs (apparently) in order to exclude him from membership. Another fine example of the institute in action.

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By More unearned luck
18th Sep 2023 16:05

"A retired chartered accountant was excluded from the ICAEW and ordered to pay costs of £15,290 after sending obscene and offensive emails..."

What obscene emails? Nothing in your report indicates that any of the offending emails contained obscene words or material. Offensive: yes; obscene; no.

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Replying to More unearned luck:
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By JustAnotherUser
19th Sep 2023 08:16

you missed the part where he called her sister a slapper? subjective I know, however the writer of this article has taken some creative freedom as the full report only uses the word 'obscene' once and that is in reference to the code of conduct.

"The Tribunal considered this conduct fell into category 9(i) which covers an aggressive course of conduct and/or the use of obscene and grossly offensive language or similar"

The case is in reference to 'The ICs case was that certain comments made in those emails were offensive'. They never reference obscenity.

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Replying to More unearned luck:
By Duggimon
19th Sep 2023 10:31

The obscene emails are in the transcript but not quoted in the article. The obscenities are relatively mild but it's not a reach to refer to them as such.

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Replying to Duggimon:
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By More unearned luck
19th Sep 2023 12:21

Even if any of the emails or words therein could reasonably be described of as obscene (which I doubt) there was no finding that they were obscene. Mr Forge was found guilty on the offensive limb of the rule.

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By Marlinman
18th Sep 2023 17:17

I shall be discontinuing my membership the day I retire. What the hell are you supposed to do if some idiot attacks you physically or verbally?

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Replying to Marlinman:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
19th Sep 2023 10:08

Er not act like a total loser?

Thanks (8)
Replying to Marlinman:
Stepurhan
By stepurhan
19th Sep 2023 13:17

Know what the difference is between acting in self-defence and instigating an attack of your own?

Even that is ignoring the fact that, based on the facts given above, it would appear he started the hostilities.

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David Ross
By davidross
19th Sep 2023 09:56

Seeing the behaviour of this institute and its members makes me glad I never had anything to do with them, LOL !

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By Self-Employed and Happy
19th Sep 2023 10:15

I thought us ACCA "wannabe Accountants" were the rogue element of the Qualified profession...

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Replying to Self-Employed and Happy:
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By Casterbridge Hardy LLP
19th Sep 2023 10:19

You flatter yourself - according popular folk lore we are all financial vultures.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Self-Employed and Happy:
All Paul Accountants in Leeds
By paulinleeds
19th Sep 2023 14:02

Now, now, please do not use 'offensive language' like, "wannabe Accountants"

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By Ian Narbeth
19th Sep 2023 10:48

Very poor professional conduct and he breached the maxim: "Never put anything in print (in the public domain) that you wouldn't want read out in court."

I know it's at a tangent but can we have a regulator for MPs who refer to their opponents as "Tory Scum" including the deputy leader who used the term for all Tory MPs shortly before David Amess was murdered?

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By indomitable
19th Sep 2023 11:14

What a ridiculous penalty amount!

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All Paul Accountants in Leeds
By paulinleeds
19th Sep 2023 14:11

Another for what a ridiculous penalty amount.

I know this accountant is putting into writing a lot of what people may say in their offices, but really, the penalty does not fit the crime.

The more I read about the little man, or should a say 'person', accountant and the fine and penalties being issued, the more I truly believe that professional bodies are just making money from these matters.

Give him a written warning, if you really must do something.

When I first read the title and introduction of 'offensive emails' and 'sending obscene emails' I had expected some 'A' rated obscenities, with the F and C words. But no, referring to Mickey Mouse Accountant et al is not exactly offensive.

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Replying to paulinleeds:
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
19th Sep 2023 14:26

"I know this accountant is putting into writing a lot of what people may say in their offices, but really, the penalty does not fit the crime"

When you say "people" are you sure you don't mean "misogynists"?

If anyone in my office said those things they would be out on their ear.

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
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By Postingcomments
19th Sep 2023 20:06

Fair enough, get rid, but charging them £15k for reading the emails and concluding that they're offensive is a bit much, IMO.

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Replying to paulinleeds:
paddle steamer
By DJKL
19th Sep 2023 16:15

Agree about the penalty, any decent accountant would have rounded the sum down to £15,000, the £290 is just not material.

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By 2TunTed
19th Sep 2023 14:52

No excusing the conduct of the ex-member although given the resignation it does look as if the matter was pursued by the ICAEW because they wanted to be seen to be doing a proper job, with the justification that the by-laws demand it. £15K looks like a very proper job.

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By Postingcomments
19th Sep 2023 20:03

£15k of time to read a few emails? No technical judgement needed. That's the really offensive part of all this.

I suppose that while people pay ICAEW for this system, why would they change the system? Paying in to the system every year = consent to the system.

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By hyper10
20th Sep 2023 09:53

Sadly my experience of Building Management companies is one where "scum of the earth" is a wholly appropriate term
The rest god knows

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By petestar1969
20th Sep 2023 13:27

Anyone audited those costs? Sounds a bit high.

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Replying to petestar1969:
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By paul.benny
20th Sep 2023 16:08

The full disciplinary report states that a schedule was provided to and reviewed by the disciplinary panel. It also notes something the effect that not all costs were charged.

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