Compliance and professional conduct
During this uncertain time, we recognise there are unprecedented challenges facing ICAEW firms and members.
We continue to expect the highest professional standards by all ICAEW firms and members. This includes abiding by ICAEW and statutory regulations and to continue to meet the high standards expected by the public.
ICAEW, the ICAEW Regulatory Board and the Professional Standards Department (the department responsible for carrying out ICAEW’s regulatory and disciplinary roles, including the Professional Conduct Department) recognise that COVID-19 has and is creating exceptional circumstances.
We will take a proportionate approach to all areas of regulation and discipline including quality assurance monitoring and enforcement / professional conduct cases. For example, any new complaints made about the conduct of an ICAEW firm or member during this COVID-19 period will be investigated by the Professional Conduct Department (PCD) in the usual way. However the PCD case managers and the Investigation Committee will take into account mitigating circumstances surrounding such conduct.
As ever, we expect firms to have contingency plans in place for disruption and that these are now implemented as required.
Client confidentiality must still be respected and safeguarded at all times. ICAEW firms / members should document the details of the arrangements they have put in place to keep client’s information confidential. ICAEW firms / members should make clients aware that work is taking place outside the office (if applicable) and the safeguards you have put in place. This gives clients the opportunity to raise objections if they have concerns.
ICAEW firms / members must continue to comply with Anti-Money Laundering Regulations in their work. While the current situation may make it impossible to meet new clients, client due diligence checks must still be carried out.
If you or your firm faces any compliance difficulties linked to the impact of COVID:19, you should clearly document the approach you have taken.
And, if you or your firm is uncertain about a specific scenario, please contact our Technical Advisory team via webchat.
Investigation of complaints / disciplinary proceedings during COVID-19 restrictions
1. Investigation of professional conduct complaints that took place prior to the impact of COVID-19
These investigations are continuing as normal. We’d like to highlight the following points as these will continue to be effective during this period:
- Investigation reports will continue to be drafted and provided to the subject of the complaint (ICAEW firm / member) for comment. Additional time for response will be provided if required (see below).
- Investigation Committee meetings will still continue to take place every month to consider investigation reports.
- The ICAEW firm / member which is the subject of an investigation will continue to be given the option to complete a financial means questionnaire. This questionnaire can be used by the ICAEW firm / member to point out any deterioration of their financial position as a result of the impact of COVID-19. This will be taken into account by the Investigation Committee when it determines any sanction(s), costs order(s) or whether to grant additional time to pay.
2. Changes to the professional conduct investigation process
- Correspondence, for example, between the ICAEW Professional Conduct Department, the Investigation Committee, the subject of the complaint (ICAEW firm / member) and the complainant is predominately by email.
- While it is in the public interest (and also in the interests of members and firms) that investigations are concluded as quickly as possible, time extensions for the supply of information and documents will be given if it is clear the ICAEW firm / member which is the subject of the complaint is experiencing difficulties as a result of the impact of COVID-19 or Government restrictions.
- All disciplinary tribunals will be assessed to determine whether they are suitable to be held on a virtual platform. Those that are not will be postponed until government restrictions are relaxed sufficiently to allow a tribunal to take place safely.
- Sanctions hearings may continue to take place. These will be by telephone or video conference.