Professional Conduct Enquiry and Discipline Processes
The Instituteís professional conduct enquiry and discipline process is governed by the Accountants (Chartered) Act (primarily Section 24) and the Bylaws (primarily Parts 7 and 8).
A. Professional Conduct Enquiry (Part 7 of the Bylaws)
- Upon receipt of an enquiry concerning a member, student or licensed firm of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of British Columbia (member), the Instituteís Director of Ethics (DE) undertakes a preliminary review of the enquiry and supporting material to determine if the matter falls within the Instituteís jurisdiction.† The Vice-Chair of the Professional Conduct Enquiry Committee (PCEC) meets with the DE to review the enquiry and the matter either goes forward for investigation or it is recommended for dismissal.† In the latter case, two public representatives on the PCEC must agree to dismiss.
- If an investigation is to proceed, the Chair of the PCEC advises the member being investigated in writing of the enquiry and the name of the assigned committee member and the assigned contract investigator.† The member is provided with a copy of the enquiry and supporting material, and information about the process.† The DE provides the committee member and the investigator with all available information.
- The committee member contacts the member and reviews the professional conduct enquiry process with him/her.
- After discussing the case with the committee member, the investigator, under the supervision of the DE, conducts an in-depth investigation (Bylaw 710).† After assembling the facts, the investigator discusses his/her preliminary findings with the DE and the committee member and prepares a draft investigation report.† The report contains the nature of the enquiry, a list of the rules to be considered, and the findings.† The DE and the investigator discuss these matters with the committee member and, if necessary, carry out further investigation work.
- If, at any stage of an investigation, it becomes apparent that there is no evidence to support a breach of the bylaws or rules by the member or that the subject of the investigation is beyond the jurisdiction of the PCEC, the matter is referred back to the Vice-Chair for a decision that the investigation proceed no further.† Two public representatives on the PCEC must also approve this step.
- Upon completion of the investigation, a copy of the draft investigation report is provided to the member and their comments are requested.† The covering letter discloses the PCEC date at which the investigation will be reviewed and invites the member to attend.
- Where the committee member considers that a determination, other than a dismissal, under Bylaw 730(ii) (grounds do exist for a complaint) will be the outcome, the committee member advises the member of the potential seriousness of the matter and encourages the member to appear before the PCEC.† All members have the right to attend along with their legal counsel if they so wish.
- The investigation report in final form, after consideration of comments from the member, is delivered to the member.†
- The final investigation report is sent to the PCEC prior to the PCEC meeting to allow for adequate review of the material.
- The PCEC discusses the report and asks questions of the member if he/she attends. The DE and the investigator may also provide their input.
- The PCEC makes a determination (Bylaw 730) that either (i) no grounds exist for a complaint and the file is closed or (ii) that grounds do exist for a complaint. In the first case, two public representatives of the PCEC must be in favour of the determination (Bylaw 731).
- The PCEC is deemed to make a determination that grounds do exist for a complaint if at least three public representatives attend the meeting and fewer then two of them are in favour of a determination that no grounds exist for a complaint (Bylaw 732).
- If the PCEC determines that grounds do exist for a complaint (Bylaw 733), then the PCEC, depending on the seriousness of the matter, either (i) makes a recommendation that the member accept a reprimand, complete one or more professional development courses, pay a fine of up to $25,000 for a member ($4,000 for a student) and not more than $100,000 for a firm, pay expenses and take remedial action, or do any combination of these actions; or (ii) delivers a Statement of Complaint to the Discipline Tribunal.† Two public representatives on the PCEC must approve (i).† The Statement of Complaint is prepared by legal counsel and approved by the Chair of the PCEC.
- If the PCEC makes a recommendation under Bylaw 733(i), it may also recommend that the member agree to publication on the Instituteís public website of a notice concerning the PCECís determination and recommendation, or such other publication or disclosure, if any, as the PCEC may consider to be in the public interest.
- The PCECís determination and recommendation is communicated to the member by letter from the Chair (Bylaw 734) and he also advises the enquirer (person/persons who filed the complaint against the member) as to whether the matter was dismissed or appropriate disciplinary action was taken.† Communication is restricted under the Act, Section 22, as well as Bylaw 760.
- If the member accepts the determination and complies with the recommendation, the matter is concluded (Bylaw 735).
- If the member disagrees with the recommendation or the determination on which it is based, the member can enter the binding opinion process which will facilitate the resolution of a disagreement over a determination and recommendation between the PCEC and the member in an informal and expeditious manner (Bylaws 734(iii), and 740 to 749).
- If the member declines the determination and recommendation, the PCEC may deliver a Statement of Complaint to the Discipline Tribunal (Bylaws 736 and 737).
B. Binding Opinion (Bylaws 740 to 749)
- If a member, former member, student or firm believes that a determination and recommendation is unfair or inappropriate, he/she/it can advise the Chair/Vice-Chair of the PCEC or the DE that he/she/it wishes to use the binding opinion process (Bylaw 734(iii)).
- The use of the binding opinion process must be acceptable to the PCEC, and both parties must agree, in writing, that any opinion given will be final and binding, and may not be challenged, reviewed or appealed.
- The administrative fee referred to in Bylaw 747 is $1,000.
- The Chair of the Discipline Tribunal will select a Review Panel of three reviewers to provide the opinion.† The reviewers will be selected from among members of the Discipline Tribunal.† A public representative is included on the Review Panel.
- The Review Panel will not be appointed, and the binding opinion process will not be commenced or proceed, until the administrative fee is paid in accordance with Bylaw 748.† The fee is not refundable, except as provided in Bylaw 749.
- The binding opinion process will be conducted in accordance with Bylaws 740 to 749.
- In proposing any changes to the recommendation, the Review Panel will be limited by the outcomes specified in Bylaw 733.
- The opinion will be provided as expeditiously as possible, without reasons or explanations.
C. Discipline Tribunal (Part 8 of the Bylaws)
- The Discipline Tribunal is appointed by Council and comprises senior, experienced CAs and at least three individuals who are not members of the Institute.† None of the Discipline Tribunal members are members of Council, the PCEC or the Practice Review and Licensing Committee (Bylaw 800).
- The Discipline Tribunal hearings are formal, open to the public, and are heard by a Panel of three, or sometimes five, members of the Discipline Tribunal.† A public representative is included on the Panel.† Usually, the Panel appoints a lawyer to assist it; the Institute appoints a lawyer to present the case outlined in the Statement of Complaint; and the member is generally represented by a lawyer
(Bylaws 820 and 830).
- The Panel of the Discipline Tribunal must make a decision to either dismiss the Statement of Complaint or confirm the Statement of Complaint in whole or in part and give reasons for its decision (Bylaw 850).
- If the Statement of Complaint is confirmed, the Panel may make an order (Bylaw 860 and Act, Section 24(2)) including one or more of a reprimand, a suspension, a cancellation, imposition of conditions upon continuation of membership, a fine of up to $25,000 for a member ($4,000 for a student) and not more than $100,000 for a firm and an award of costs (Bylaws 861, 862 and 863).
- Under Section 24.1 of the Act, the member may appeal the order of the Discipline Tribunal to the Supreme Court of BC.
D. Extraordinary Suspension (Act, Section 23)
- Under Section 23 of the Act, if the matter is very serious and the public interest may be prejudiced by the delay of the usual discipline process, a panel of three members of Council may suspend a member without giving the member an opportunity to be heard.
- The member may appeal this extraordinary suspension to the Supreme Court of BC.
- Regardless of whether the member appeals, the Institute will go through the usual discipline process outlined above as expeditiously as possible.
E. Resolutions of Discipline Proceedings
- 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).
- Such a resolution may include any terms or conditions that are agreed to by the member (or former member) and the Institute, including, for example:
- the memberís agreement to the cancellation of his/her membership in the Institute;
- if the member has resigned or agreed to the cancellation of his/her membership, an agreement by the member (or former member) never to apply for readmission, or not to apply for readmission for a specified period of time, or until specified conditions are met;
- the memberís (or former memberís) agreement to pay the Instituteís costs for the investigation and discipline proceedings; and
- an agreement as to what information about the circumstances and terms of the resolution of the discipline proceedings against the member (or former member) may be published on the Instituteís website and/or in other media, including an agreement as to specified content of the publication.