The primary function of the Investigation Committee is to consider all formal complaints referred to it in accordance with the disciplinary bye-laws, its own regulations (The Investigation Committee Regulations) and its Terms of Reference.
The committee has Terms of Reference and the power to make its own regulations (paragraph 1.6 of Schedule – Bye-law 2 of the disciplinary bye-laws).
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 Schedule 2 to the disciplinary bye-laws.
The committee sits once per 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 panel by the committee secretary, who is a solicitor. 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 complaints against members and firms in relation to a wide range of matters. Complaints which have been investigated by ICAEW are referred to the committee by the Professional Conduct Department, who produce a detailed report for the committee, which sets out the complaint against the member, summarises the relevant facts and matters, along with any arguments advanced by/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 Professional Conduct Department, any source documents (such as accounts, audit working papers, contracts etc), and correspondence from the complainant and/or witnesses (if any). The attachments can be numerous and it is essential that committee members are comfortable with reviewing a large amount of documentation in a relatively short period of time.
In each case the committee decides whether there is a ‘prima facie’ case in relation to the complaint(s) alleged against the member. If they do find a prima facie case 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 order that a member receive an unpublicised caution, reprimand or severe reprimand. However, the committee can only make an order with the consent of the member concerned, except in the case of an unpublicised caution. For all other matters, if the member does not accept the proposed order (Consent Order) s/he can exercise their right to an oral hearing before the Disciplinary Committee, and in these cases the Investigation Committee will refer the matter to the Disciplinary Committee as a formal complaint. For the most serious cases, where the recommended starting point for sanction is exclusion from membership, the committee will refer the complaint directly to the Disciplinary Committee as a formal complaint, as soon as they have found a prima facie case in relation to the matter. 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.