CHARTERED PROFESSIONAL ACCOUNTANTS CPA ONTARIO DEFENCE LAWYER
Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario (CPA) Ontario regulates professional conduct for accountants, conducting disciplinary hearings for allegations of misconduct in Toronto. The Firm defends accountants facing allegations of misconduct that is deemed to discredit the profession. The Firm has defended accountants who failed to obtain and understand an entity’s or client’s risk assessment process and information system, failed to test the presumed risk of fraud related to revenue, failed to obtain sufficient audit evidence, provided services requiring a Public Accounting License, issued Auditor Reports that are not in accordance with quality standards and other allegations of professional misconduct, including sexual impropriety. Accountants, like many professionals in Canada, must be adequately educated, licensed and regulated by the province in which they practice. Each province regulates their professionals in their own way.
The Firm’s exceptional background in criminal defence pretrial resolution and litigation often resolves proceedings without any formal disciplinary action or sanctions by the regulatory body. The Firm has successfully defended Doctors, Dentists, Lawyers, Paralegals, Law Society Discipline Investigators, Nurses, Accountants, Real Estate Agents, Health Care Professionals, Teachers, Financial Service Sector Employees, City of Toronto and Provincial Government Employees, Police Officers and Canada Boarder Service Officers, Canada Revenue Agency Auditors and many other professionals belonging to regulatory bodies and facing prosecution or criminal charges.
Each province in Canada is responsible for regulating the accountants practicing in their province. Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario is the organization responsible for regulating the practice of accounting in Ontario. The goal of Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario is to ensure all members of the accounting practice are held to the highest professional standards of responsibility, knowledge and integrity in order to protect the public. Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario is responsible for enforcing the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario Act 2017, which is discussed in more detail below.
They ensure that accountants have received the proper education from an accredited institution prior to beginning practice as an accountant and that practicing accountants keep up to date with any necessary on-going education and abide by all of the regulations laid out in the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario Act 2017. The main goal is to protect the public from professional misconduct. As such, Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario also accepts formal complaints regarding licensed Chartered Professional Accountants and investigates as necessary. If professional misconduct or unethical behaviour is discovered, Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario will also be the regulating body responsible for punishing the offending accountant.
Frequently Asked Questions
How are Accountants Regulated?
As mentioned briefly in the section above, Chartered Professional Accountants in Ontario are regulated by the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario Act 2017. This statute outlines all of the rules and regulations surrounding the practice of accounting in Ontario. It dictates the qualifications that must be met before one can become a Chartered Professional Accountant in Ontario, outlines the requirements for membership, the regulations surrounding opening an accounting firm and the processes in place for the regular inspection of accounting firms. It also outlines the parameters for the CPA council, which is the board of individuals who manages and runs Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario as an institution. The statute also outlines acts which are prohibited to individuals who are not Chartered Professional Accountants in Ontario, such as portraying one’s self to be a Chartered Professional Accountant when they are in fact not. The Act goes on to outline the regulations surrounding the complaint process, the investigation of those complaints and the discipline that will follow in situations where professional misconduct has been found. Finally, the Act outlines other miscellaneous rules and various by-laws that apply to accountants in Ontario.
In addition, Chartered Professional Accountants must also abide by the Chartered Professional Accountants Code of Professional Conduct which came into effect on February 26, 2016. This Code outlines the rules of professional conduct that all Chartered Professional Accountants, accounting firms and students must abide by. The Code contains rules on professional governance, the governance of accounting firms, public protection, public accounting practices and interactions with colleagues. Failure to follow the rules outlined in the Code may amount to professional misconduct and could result in serious implications, including discipline, suspension or a loss of licence altogether.
What are Practice Inspections?
To ensure that members and firms practicing as Chartered Professional Accountants are complying with all of the rules and regulations of practice, Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario will conduct regular firm inspections. During an inspection, an inspector will attend the office of the member or the firm and conduct an inspection in accordance with applicable by-laws. The costs associated with the inspection will fall to the member or the firm to cover.
The Complaint Process
As with many professions, failure to abide by the rules set out in the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario Act 2017 or the Code of Professional Conduct could result in a finding of professional misconduct. Most commonly, this type of conduct will come to the attention of Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario through a complaint being filed by a member of the public. Virtually any member of the public can make a formal complaint against an accountant. A simple form, which can be found on the Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario website, can be filled out and submitted via mail or email. Generally, supporting documentation will be necessary. It must be noted that to file a complaint, the allegations must be that of professional misconduct and not simply relating to a disagreement between the member and a client.
What Happens when a Complaint is Filed?
Once Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario has received a complaint, assuming it appears to have some merit, they will begin their investigation. Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario has a statutory obligation to investigate every complaint filed against an individual Chartered Professional Accountant, accounting firm or student, if that complaint references behaviour that would be considered professional misconduct as outlined in the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario Act 2017 or the Professional Code of Conduct rules, regulations and by-laws. Upon conducting an initial review of the complaint, Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario will request any necessary documentation from both the complainant and the member. Information collected from both parties will be made available to the other party to ensure full disclosure and a thorough investigation. The complaint will then be reviewed by the Committee who is made up of volunteer members of Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario and public representatives who are appointed by the council.
In situations where the complaint is more complex the Committee may hire an experienced investigator to gather and analyze necessary information and prepare a detailed report of their findings for the Committee to review. In most cases the Chartered Professional Accountant will be asked to attend a meeting to be interviewed on the matter. All members are entitled to have qualified legal counsel present during the entirety of the complaint process. Once the Committee has completed their investigation they will determine which one of three routes to take to remedy the situation. If the Committee finds that no breach of the rules has occurred, they will dismiss the complaint without any further action. If the Committee finds that a breach may have taken place, but that it is not in the publics best interest to discipline the offending party, they may reprimand the member and offer guidance on how to avoid the issue from reoccurring. Finally, if the Committee finds that the member did in fact violate the rules and regulations and is guilty of professional misconduct they will either refer the case to the Discipline Committee for prosecution or will offer a settlement to the member.
It must be noted that the complaint process is generally not the appropriate forum for disputes regarding fee’s. The Committee does not have the legal authority to force a student, member or firm to pay any fee or perform any act for a third party. This can only be facilitated through the courts. Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario Committee does offer a fee mediation service which is discussed more in detail below.
What Happens if the Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario Committee Discovers Professional Misconduct?
As mentioned above, once a complaint is filed, an investigation is completed and the Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario Committee determines that professional misconduct has occurred, the file will often be sent to the Discipline Committee for prosecution of the member. It should be noted that in some less serious cases the Committee will offer a settlement to the member instead of referring the file to the Discipline Committee. Once the Discipline Committee receives a file, a hearing will be held, where the member will appear before a tribunal of the Discipline Committee. The Committee will hear testimony from witnesses as well as other evidence that is relevant to the allegations. Once all of the evidence has been presented, the tribunal will make a decision as to whether or not professional misconduct has occurred. Where the tribunal finds that misconduct has occurred it will listen to submissions regarding the appropriate sanctions.
It must be noted that both the complainant and the member may appeal the Discipline Committee’s decision.
What Penalties do Accountants Face after a Finding of Professional Misconduct by the Discipline Committee?
Upon finding that a member is guilty of committing professional misconduct, there are an array of disciplinary measures available to the Discipline Committee. These punishments are outlined in the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario Act 2017 under s. 34(4) regarding the powers of the Committee. The Committee may; revoke or suspend the members membership or the firms registration, levy conditions or restrictions on the ability of the member or the firm to practice as a Chartered Professional Accountant or the use of the members designations as outlined in section 17 of the Act or the initials listed in section 18 of the Act, reprimand the member or the firm, order the firm or member to pay a fine, direct the member to undergo rehabilitative measures including specified professional development classes or other counselling or treatment, order the firm to take any specified rehabilitative measures, including requiring any member of the firm to successfully complete professional development classes or other counselling or treatment, order the member or firm to compensate any person for the losses caused by the professional misconduct, require the firm to undergo practice inspections under section 41 of this Act, refer the matter back to the Complaints Committee for further investigation as directed by the Discipline Committee and finally make any other order that Committee deems appropriate in the circumstances of the case.
The Mediation Process
Mediation may be initiated by either a client (generally the complainant) or a member in situations involving simple issues, usually disputes surrounding fee’s. For mediation to begin, both parties must agree to attend and to the terms outlined in the Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario authorization letter for mediation. Once both parties have agreed, the Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario Committee will appoint a mediator who will review the case and work towards a solution that is agreeable for both parties.
How to Defend a Formal Complaint made to Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario?
As with any legal matter, the best defence will depend largely on the allegations being made and the facts surrounding the case. It is important to contact qualified legal counsel immediately upon receiving notice that a formal complaint has been filed. In some cases, the allegations against the member will be unfounded, or do not amount to professional misconduct. In these situations the member may simply state that they have not violated any of the rules or regulations surrounding the proper practice of accounting on Ontario. In other situations, the member may be able to simply deny the allegations. In situations where the complaint has some merit however, the member will be required to come up with a more substantive defence. Generally, the best defence is to demonstrate to the Committee that the member satisfactorily followed all of the applicable rules and regulations as outlined by Chartered Professional Accountants Ontario. It is important to contact qualified legal counsel as soon as possible to ensure the complaint is answered completely and correctly as the consequences of a finding of professional misconduct could be very serious.