Responding to a Complaint Against a Member of the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand: Case Conference and Referrals to the Disciplinary Tribunal
This article is a continuation of the previous article: Responding to a Complaint Against a Member of the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand
If you have not reviewed that article we recommend that you view that article first before reading this article. This article discusses what may be involved at a case conference or a referral to the Disciplinary Tribunal.
It discusses circumstances where the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) have received a complaint about alleged breaches by a member of the CA ANZ, and the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) have decided to convene a case conference or have referred the complaint to the Disciplinary Tribunal.
What is Generally Involved at A Case Conference
A case conference is a meeting with a member of CA ANZ who is the subject of the complaint and the PCC. This meeting is usually face to face, and depending on the nature of the complaint, the complainant may be invited to attend the meeting.
A case conference is usually convened if PCC considers that further discussions of the issues is required. The meeting is not open to the public and only support persons are permitted to attend.
A support person can be a lawyer, colleague, friend or family member. A support person’s role is often very limited, and they are generally not allowed to advocate for the person they are there supporting unless PCC provide their approval for the support person to take on a speaking role at the meeting. A support person who is a lawyer will, however, be able to provide advice to guidance before the meeting and during any breaks that are requested
Prior to a case conference, the parties will generally be given an agenda which sets out the issues and is designed to focus the meeting on discussing and (ideally) resolving those issues.
After the case conference is finished, the PCC will leave the meeting to determine whether the PCC will make a decision on the day based on the material and the discussions at the case conference. If the PCC reach a decision on the day, the parties will be told of the decision.
In some circumstances, the PCC may offer the member sanctions by consent. The PCC will usually discuss the proposed sanction with the member, and will give the member an opportunity to obtain independent legal advice before responding to the proposed sanction.
If the member agrees to the proposed sanction, the sanction will be recorded on their membership with CA ANZ and the complaint will be finalised.
If the member does not agree to the proposed sanction, the complaint will generally be automatically referred to the Disciplinary Tribunal.
Referrals to the Disciplinary Tribunal
A complaint may be referred to the Disciplinary Tribunal after the PCC have reviewed the complaint and material, or after a case conference which is unsuccessful.
The Disciplinary Tribunal may consider applications to it which includes:
- seeking to temporarily suspend a member’s registration with CA ANZ because the member poses an immediate risk to the public;
- or if a person who was previously a member was struck off the register of members and is applying for re-admission of their membership with CA ANZ.
In any case, the member who is the subject of the complaint will usually receive a notice that their matter will be heard before the Disciplinary Tribunal.
PCC must prove the allegations contained in a complaint on the civil standard, being “on the balance of probabilities”.
The member and PCC may make submissions and present their evidence to the Disciplinary Tribunal and may call upon witnesses to give evidence. Both lay or expert witnesses may be called to give evidence.
Members may act self-represented or may engage disciplinary lawyers to represent them at the hearing before the Disciplinary Tribunal. The hearings are held in public and the decisions are usually published. A member’s name may be suppressed in exceptional circumstances.
Disciplinary Tribunal Possible Outcomes
The Disciplinary Tribunal can make a wide range of decisions, including:
- Removing the member from the register of members;
- Suspending the member’s registration for up to five years;
- Imposing monetary penalties;
- Cancelling or suspending a Certificate of Public Practice;
- Requiring an investigation or review of the members practice or requiring them to complete professional development or engage an adviser or consultant.
In addition to the above, the Disciplinary Tribunal may also seek a written undertaking from the membership who is the subject of the complaint.
Appealing the Disciplinary Tribunal’s Decision
If you are unsatisfied with the Disciplinary Tribunal’s decision you may wish to appeal the Disciplinary Tribunal’s decision in the Appeals Tribunal or the Appeals Council.
The Appeals Tribunal/Council can set aside or vary the Disciplinary Tribunal’s decision.
Further information about the case conference and Disciplinary Tribunal process is available on CA ANZ’s website, which can be accessed using the following link: https://www.charteredaccountantsanz.com/about-us/complaints/complaints-about-a-member
If you have been required to attended a case conference, we may be able to attend the conference with you and assist you, even if PCC do not provide us with approval to advocate on your behalf.
If you have a hearing before the Disciplinary Tribunal and are seeking legal representation to act for you at the hearing, feel free to contact us to discuss how we can assist. If you have a hearing before the Disciplinary Tribunal, we recommend seeking legal advice as soon as possible.
This article is general in nature and should not be relied on as legal advice. If you are seeking legal advice for your specific circumstance, feel free to contact Potts Lawyers to discuss your matter and our proposed terms of engagement.