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The primary function of the Conduct Committee is to consider all allegations referred to it in accordance with the disciplinary bye-laws, the Investigation and Disciplinary Regulations and its own Terms of Reference.

The committee has a minimum of 14 members, of whom at least half must be lay members. Members are appointed for an initial term of three years which may be renewed once, with a further option for extension for one additional term. The requirements of the constitution of the committee are set out in the Investigation and Disciplinary Regulations at paragraphs 5.2-5.5.

The committee sits once every month, and all members of the committee are invited to attend each meeting. The quorum for a meeting of the committee is four members: two lay and two ICAEW members. Currently, the chair of the panel is a layperson. Where required, legal advice is given to the committee by the committee secretary, who is legally qualified. The committee secretary is not a member of the committee making the decision, but is available to assist with legal and procedural advice, if needed.

Operation of the committee

The committee considers around 25 cases per month, being allegations against members, firms, affiliates, and other relevant persons in relation to a wide range of matters. Allegations which have been investigated by ICAEW are referred to the committee by the Conduct Department, who produce a detailed report for the committee, which sets out the allegation against the member/firm/affiliate or relevant person, summarises the relevant facts and matters, along with any arguments advanced by or on behalf of the complainant (if any) and the member. Attached to the report will be the relevant documents, which will usually include correspondence between the member and the Conduct Department, any source documents (such as accounts, audit working papers, contracts etc), and correspondence from the complainant and/or witnesses (if any).

In each case the committee decides whether there is a realistic prospect that, if the allegation(s) were to be referred to a Tribunal Committee for a hearing, such allegation(s) would be found proved. If they do find that this test has been met it will continue to consider what, if any sanction is appropriate. In doing this, the committee has reference to the Guidance on Sanctions. The committee has the power to impose unlimited fines and direct the firm to pay costs. It can also make any one or more of the orders which a Tribunal could make as set out in Disciplinary Bye-laws 10.1 (b) this includes making an order that a member receive a caution, reprimand, or severe reprimand. However, the committee can only make an order with the consent of the subject of the allegation. For all other matters, if the subject of the allegation(s) does not accept the proposed order (Consent Order) they can exercise their right to an oral hearing before the Tribunals Committee, and in these cases the Conduct Committee will refer the matter to the Tribunals Committee as a formal allegation. For the most serious cases, where the recommended starting point for sanction is exclusion from membership, the committee will refer the allegation directly to the Tribunals Committee as a formal allegation, as soon as they have found a realistic prospect that, if the allegation(s) were to be referred to a Tribunal Committee hearing such allegation(s) would be found proved. This is because the committee does not have the power to exclude a member. 

The committee makes its decisions by majority, with the chair having the casting vote, if necessary. Members of the committee will be expected to review the reports and attachments in advance of the meeting and to actively contribute to the discussion of each matter.

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