You are the subject of a complaint
Information and support for ICAEW members, firms and ACA students who are subject to a complaint.
You are the subject of a complaint
We undertand that finding out a complaint has been made against you can be stressful. Whether you are an ICAEW member, student, regulated individual or firm, the information below is designed to guide you through the process.
The investigation process: An overview
- The first step of an investigation is an assessment stage. A case manager from ICAEW’s Professional Conduct Department will gather information from the complainant and sometimes from you to consider whether disciplinary action might be appropriate. More than 50% of cases are closed at this stage. If the evidence suggests there may be a case to answer, the complaint will be formally investigated by the same case manager who will then seek responses and evidence from you and may seek further information from the complainant. If necessary, the matter is then referred to the Investigation Committee (IC) You will be sent a copy of the draft report and be able to make representations on it
- The IC will consider the complaint and all the relevant evidence including representations from the complainant and from you.. It will either decide what action to take or that there is no case to answer. At this stage more than 50% of cases considered by the IC are resolved by the ICAEW member, student, regulated individual or firm accepting a disciplinary finding and agreeing a consent order or a caution
- The IC will refer the remaining cases (generally the most serious) to a tribunal of the Disciplinary Committee (DC).
How to respond to a notice of complaintPlease ensure you respond to any requests for information from us promptly and in full.
Not replying can escalate matters, as a failure to respond can itself lead to a disciplinary finding. If you want to respond but don’t know how much information you should give, or just can’t respond within the timescale, please talk to the case manager. We may give you an extension of time (eg, to allow for the need to retrieve files from storage). We will not be able to provide an open-ended extension.
You may be upset or angry when you are told the Professional Conduct Department is investigating a complaint against you. Please make sure you behave professionally throughout the investigation. Unfortunately our case managers are sometimes treated with aggression. This is not acceptable and it won’t be tolerated. It may count against you, particularly if the IC thinks you have behaved unprofessionally during the course of the investigation. This could affect any sanction that is given.
CostsThe charge (since 1 July 2019) for disciplinary complaints is £180 per hour. A standing charge of £220 is also added to each case to contribute to the costs of the IC. These charges may be subject to inflationary increases.
Some cases can be dealt with quickly, while other more complex cases may take over a year to investigate. Throughout the investigation, we will keep a record of the time spent on the case. To help keep costs as low as possible, please respond promptly and comprehensively to requests for information.
If the complaint against you is referred to the IC and a case is found against you, you may be liable for the some or all of costs of the investigation. This will be determined by the IC.
Being the subject of an investigation can be stressful. When we write to you in the early stages of an investigation, we give details of:
Speaking to the case manager
You can also speak to the case manager who is investigating the complaint. They can provide more detail on the process, timescales and other issues you may be concerned about. Please be aware that the case manager still needs to continue the investigation, the information you provide to them may be shared with the IC. A meeting with the case manager might be helpful if there’s a complex history to the complaint or significant papers to hand over. You may be liable for the costs of the investigation if a case is found against you, so make the most of the meeting by coming prepared with all the documentation you want to discuss.
Support if you are suffering from a medical condition
As well as the above support, if you are suffering from a medical condition you may request that your case be considered by the Fitness Committee, which will consider whether you are fit and well enough to go through the disciplinary process. During this time, the complaint against you will be put on hold to give adequate time to determine the best way forward. The committee is supported by a medical assessor and we will pay for you to have an independent medical assessment.
If you are suffering from a serious medical condition and would like your case to be considered by the Fitness Committee, please speak to the ICAEW professional conduct committee secretary, Emily Healy-Howell.
Information sharingYou are entitled to see all relevant papers that the IC considers. If the complainant asks us not to share information with you, it can’t be shared with the committee either. If you don’t want us to share information with the person who has initiated the complaint, you should make this clear in writing. However, if you do this and we consider we need the complainant’s comments on these points, we may still need to put these points to the complainant even if we don’t share with them copies of documents you’ve provided.
Legal representationIt’s up to you whether you engage a lawyer but our process doesn't require you to be represented. If you engage a lawyer, you should let the case manager know and give them authority to speak or write to your lawyer.
Key points to note
- You cannot usually stop the complaint by resigning. ICAEW has the power to take action against former members so resigning may not stop the case being reported to the IC.
- The case manager does not make the final decision on the case. They may share their opinion with you but all cases are subject to a review process and are ultimately considered by the IC, which will make the final decision on whether there’s a case to answer and what sanction is appropriate.
- If the complaint has been raised by ICAEW (for example, because we think you may be practising without a practising certificate), the Professional Conduct department may be able to close the case. If the complaint has been made by a third party such as an unhappy client, they can insist that their complaint is reported to the IC, regardless of the case manager’s view.
- We publish details of consent orders and cases upheld by a tribunal on our website.