Concerned About the Conduct of a CA or Firm?
As the self-regulating organization for British Columbia's 11,300 chartered accountants, 1,700 students and its 960 licensed firms, our top priority is to protect the public. The Institute takes very seriously all the enquiries and complaints it receives about the conduct of its members and firms and thoroughly reviews each and every one of them.
Filing an Enquiry about the Conduct of a CA or Firm
If you have concerns about the conduct of a chartered accountant or a firm of chartered accountants, you can file an enquiry or complaint with the Institute and the situation will be investigated.
The Institute does NOT have the power to order any compensation or redress on your behalf for any perceived damages, but it does ensure that any CA's or firms conduct that may have breached our rules, bylaws or our governing provincial legislation is investigated. The most serious punishment in our power is to expel a member or cancel the licence of the firm. You may, of course, take legal action independent of the Institute's enquiry proceedings, but you should be aware that any evidence obtained through our disciplinary proceedings cannot be used in civil proceedings and that Institute staff and volunteers are prohibited from providing testimony.
In certain situations, such as disputes over fees and recovery of records, the Ethics Department of the Institute works with the Advisory Services Department. The Ethics staff may refer your enquiry to an advisor for their assistance. In most cases, this results in an acceptable resolution.
Though each situation is unique, a typical enquiry proceeding would likely begin with your written submission of materials to the Institute's Director of Ethics. Your submission should include a narrative of the nature of the enquiry and any supporting documents. You will receive a written acknowledgement of your enquiry, including an outline of how our professional conduct enquiry and discipline process works, so you know what to expect as your enquiry proceeds.
The staff of the Ethics Department will review your enquiry and you may be contacted to clarify the matter. After discussion with a volunteer CA representing the Professional Conduct Enquiry Committee (PCEC), your enquiry may or may not be authorized for further investigation. Typically, an investigation would not be authorized if the subject matter of the enquiry falls outside the Institute's jurisdiction and/or does not engage the Institute's Bylaws or Rules of Professional Conduct. In either case, you will receive another letter informing you whether or not the investigation will proceed.
The PCEC is comprised of at least fifteen members, including three public representatives who are not CAs. In addition, ad hoc members are appointed for their particular expertise.
When a complaint is not authorized for further investigation, two public representatives must agree that there are no grounds on which to proceed.
If your enquiry is investigated, the CA or firm involved will receive written notice of the enquiry, including all supporting documents. An assigned member of the PCEC will contact the CA or firm and go over the Institute's discipline process with them. The Director of Ethics will then assign a staff investigator to carry out the more in-depth investigation of your enquiry. At this stage, you will be contacted and given the opportunity to provide further information or documentation. Once the investigation is complete, a report is provided to the PCEC including the nature of the enquiry, a list of the Rules that may be considered and the investigator's findings. This report is provided to the CA or firm involved and they are invited to provide a response. The strict confidentiality requirements of our process prevent us from providing you with the report.
When the committee reviews the investigation, the CA or firm is given the option of attending the committee meeting.
After the case has been heard, the PCEC can either decide that grounds for a complaint exist or that the matter should be dismissed. If grounds exist, the committee can recommend a reprimand, completion of the Institute's professional development courses, a fine of up to $25,000 for a member ($4,000 for a student) and not more than $100,000 for a firm, or any combination of actions or other remedial consequences, depending on the seriousness of the matter. The PCEC may also recommend that the CA or firm agree to publication on the Institute’s website of the PCEC’s decision.
At this point, a letter will be sent to you advising whether grounds exist to support a contravention of the Institute's Rules of Professional Conduct or whether the case was dismissed. Because of our very strict confidentiality requirements, the Institute is not legally permitted to reveal the specific outcome of the investigation to you. But you can be assured that the PCEC will take appropriate disciplinary action that is commensurate with the seriousness of the offence.
Any decision by the PCEC that does not lead to a discipline hearing must have the approval of at least two of the public representatives (who are not CAs) who sit on the committee to ensure that the public interest is at the forefront.
If the CA or firm accepts and complies with the committee's recommendation, the matter is settled. If, instead, the member or firm disagrees with the recommendation, or the conclusions on which it was based, they can enter a binding opinion process to resolve the dispute. If that results in a change from the original decision, you will be notified. Should the CA or firm decline to accept the committee's recommendation, the PCEC may refer the matter to the Discipline Tribunal for adjudication. We will inform you if this is the case.
In very serious matters that would, in its opinion, warrant the suspension or expulsion of the CA or the suspension or cancellation of the firm's licence, the PCEC will refer the matter to the Discipline Tribunal. When this occurs, the hearings and proceedings are generally open to the public and you will be advised of the PCEC's decision and the timing of the hearing. Decisions made by the Discipline Tribunal are made public. In addition to the sanctions that can be recommended by the PCEC, this body has the authority to suspend or expel the CA from membership or suspend or cancel the licence of the firm.
At any time, but typically before the commencement of a Discipline Tribunal hearing, the Institute and a member (or former member) may agree to a resolution of the discipline proceedings against the member (or former member).
A CA or firm brought before the Discipline Tribunal can appeal its decision to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Any records in Supreme Court proceedings are available to the public.
If you wish to file a enquiry or register a complaint about a Chartered Accountant or firm of Chartered Accountants, or have questions about the Institute's discipline process, contact the Director of Ethics, Christopher Utley, CA at (604) 488-2605, or by email at email@example.com or toll-free in BC at 1-800-663-2677.