Responding to a Complaint Against a Member of the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand
Being the subject of a complaint which is before the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) would no doubt be stressful and daunting. This certainly would be worse if you are going through this process alone.
Potts Lawyers regularly assists clients who may (or are) the subject of disciplinary action and our civil and criminal lawyers often work together to protect our client’s interests. We aim to alleviate our client’s stresses by providing strategic, objective, and realistic advice.
It is important to seek legal advice as early as possible and take proactive steps to determine your position. This is not only to protect your position, but seeking assistance may also ease the stress associated with the going through the complaints process.
Types of Complaints Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand Investigate
Generally, CA ANZ will investigate matters concerning alleged breaches of relevant ethics, standards, rules or by-laws.
They do not investigate certain types of complaints, including complaints which are anonymous, vexatious, an abuse of process or capable of being resolved by referral to an alternative forum and it is reasonable for that to occur.
If a complaint about a member of a CA ANZ is referred, it may be referred to other government agencies such as:
- Australian Securities Investments Commission;
- Australian Financial Security Authority; or
- Tax Practitioner Board; or
- the Police.
Whether or not a complaint is referred will ultimately depend upon the nature of the complaint and whether other agencies have primary jurisdiction to deal with certain complaints.
An Overview of the Complaints Process
If CA ANZ determines they have jurisdiction and decides to investigate a complaint, a copy of the complaint is usually sent to the member of CA ANZ who is the subject of the complaint.
The member is given a timeframe to respond and provide a response and supporting material.
The member’s response and supporting material is sent to the complainant. The complainant is given an opportunity by CA ANZ to reply to that material. The member is then given a copy of the complainant’s reply and can submit a further response.
This process may continue until satisfactory information and material has been gathered by CA ANZ and will end with the member having the final reply. Additionally, if the complaint is serious or of a complex nature, an expert investigator may be appointed by CA ANZ.
Once sufficient information has been obtained, all the material gathered during investigation will then be provided to the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) for review and determination. PCC will seek further information if required.
Possible Outcomes of the Complaint
Once the PCC review and consider the material, the PCC may make a range of decisions, including:
- take no further action;
- issue a professional reminder to the member, or caution the member;
- convene a case conference;
- require a quality or practice or other review be undertaken;
- refer the complaint to the Disciplinary Tribunal;
The PCC may decide to offer sanctions by consent to the member, which may include requiring that the member:
- be reprimanded;
- pay a fine;
- pay the costs associated with the investigation;
- complete a professional development or engage an adviser or consultant.
In any case, irrespective about whether a decision is made by consent or not, the member may be liable to pay for CA ANZ’s costs to investigate a complaint.
If you are interested in learning about what may be involved in a case conference or a referral to the Disciplinary Tribunal, click this link the following link: Responding to a Complaint Against a Member of the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand: Case Conference and Referrals to the Disciplinary Tribunal.
Important Considerations Before Responding to a Complaint
Depending on the nature of the alleged breaches, a member could be facing serious civil and/or criminal penalties.
Before responding to a complaint, it is important to obtain the benefit of legal advice and make an informed decision once you consider your rights.
Potts Lawyers has lawyers who are experts in disciplinary law and criminal law. We can advise you on your rights from both a civil and a criminal law perspective (if necessary) to ensure that you are making an informed decision in your circumstances.
We strongly recommend seeking legal advice before providing a response to complaint and as soon as possible.
If you engage experienced disciplinary lawyers to assist you with your matter, you do not need to go through the complaints process alone. This can often reduce the amount stress associated with this process.
While it may be tempting to simply respond to a complaint, depending on the nature of the complaint, there could be important considerations as to the potential serious civil penalties and/or criminal penalties which should be considered before a response is submitted.
For this reason the importance of seeking legal advice and engaging lawyers to assist you with your matter cannot be understated.
If you are the subject of a complaint, we recommend seeking independent legal advice as soon as possible. Contact us for a free consultation or call our Brisbane office on (07) 3221 4999 or Gold Coast office on (07) 5532 3133.
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.