The Irish Auditing & Accounting Supervisory Authority (Iaasa) has reprimanded Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI) over its handling of a complaint in 2015 that one of its members had failed to disclose that he had received a commission in relation to a client's €150,000 pension investment.
Following an initial investigation, CAI’s conduct committee decided in April 2016 that there was no prima facie case for disciplinary action.
CAI gave the complainant 21 days to seek an independent review of the decision. But it went on to extend the deadline by a further nine days without showing that it considered its member’s position in exercising that discretion, Iaasa found.
The watchdog also concluded that the independent reviewer stepped beyond their remit in deciding in August 2016 that the CAI member had a case to answer. CAI’s rules have specific circumstances in which an independent reviewer can conclude that a conduct committee decision is “unsafe or wrong”, such as fresh evidence coming to light or the reason to suspect the committee lacked independence.
Meanwhile, CAI made another procedural misstep in November 2016 when it decided to declare the independent reviewer’s decision void and appoint a second independent reviewer. It did not have powers in its own regulations to do this.
“The member was entitled to expect that the process to be followed would be that which was allowed for and permitted under the regulations,” Iaasa concluded.
CAI eventually dropped the case, given that it had become a protracted disciplinary process, it noted.
CAI said on Tuesday that it accepted the decision, adding that the body “is committed to carrying out its regulatory and disciplinary functions to the highest professional standards” in line with laws and the organisation’s own rules. It declined to identify the member who was subject to the investigation or the complainant.