Accountant Tom Keane fails in bid to quash misconduct findings

High Court strikes out action by senior partner at BKRM accountancy firm

Scales of justice:  the claim by Tom Keane, former president of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants, was struck out on agreement of both sides. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Scales of justice: the claim by Tom Keane, former president of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants, was struck out on agreement of both sides. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

An action by a former president of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants has been struck out by agreement at the High Court. The case by Tom Keane, North Strand Road, Dublin, aimed to quash findings against him of professional misconduct, as well as reprimands and fines totalling €5,000.

Mr Keane, an insolvency practitioner and senior partner at Dublin accountancy firm BKRM, was president of the CPA in 1993 and 1994. His claim was struck out on agreement of both sides on its second hearing day on Thursday.

President of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, who had queried if judicial review was appropriate in this case when there was an avenue for appeal within the institute of accountants, welcomed the outcome. The case had a number of “difficulties”, he said.

When opening the proceedings on Wednesday, Matthias Kelly SC, for Mr Keane, said the institute’s findings and sanctions “effectively thrashed” his client’s reputation. He said they were based on flawed procedures and were reached in violation of his rights.

Professional misconduct

Following a two-day hearing in October and December 2014, a disciplinary tribunal found two charges of professional misconduct, arising from complaints by a former client of Mr Keane, were proven against him.

The first complaint arose from Mr Keane’s involvement in 2002 as financial adviser to a partnership involved in construction of the Aran Islands Hotel on Inis Mór island.

It was alleged Mr Keane, who later received some tax breaks from his role as managing partner of the Inis Mór partnership, never passed on to the complainant a solicitor’s letter expressing “considerable anxiety” about some matters relating to the investment and asking Mr Keane to convey the solicitor’s views to the investors and seek their formal instructions.

Code of ethics

The tribunal held Mr Keane’s failure to provide the letter to the complainant amounted to failure to comply with his obligations under the institute’s code of ethics with reference to competence, due skill, care and diligence. It ordered he be reprimanded, fined €2,000 and contribute €5,000 towards the institute’s costs.

The second finding related to the same complainant’s claim Mr Keane advised him to invest in a healthcare company, Telehealth Limited, without disclosing his own shareholding in the company.

The tribunal found Mr Keane failed to disclose to the complainant the fact he held shares in Telehealth (through shares held by another person on trust) at the same time as Mr Keane introduced the complainant to the product. This amounted to failure to comply with obligations to the complainant with reference to integrity and objectivity under the institute’s code of ethics, the tribunal found. It recommended he be “severely” reprimanded, fined €3,000 and contribute €2,500 towards the institute’s legal costs.

In his judicial review, Mr Keane said he wholly disagreed with the findings and had at all times acted with propriety, integrity, competence and in discharge of his duties under the code of ethics.