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Referral to the Investigation Committee (IC)

The Investigation Committee (IC) considers complaints against ICAEW members, firms and ACA students in relation to a wide range of matters. The information below is for ICAEW members, firms and ACA students who have received a complaint against them which has been referred to the Investigation Committee.

Complaints are usually referred to the IC, for the committee to decide if there is a prima facie case or not, following an initial investigation by the Professional Conduct Department. However, 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, where the committee can also decide whether there should be an investigation into the concerns they have raised.

The IC will consider the complaint and all the relevant evidence including representations from you/your firm and the complainant. The IC will then decide if it is or isn’t a prima facie case. If the IC decides it is a prima facie case, it will either offer a consent order or it will refer the case to the Disciplinary Committee (DC).  

As with all ICAEW professional conduct and regulatory committees, the IC has an equal or majority number of lay members (someone who is not/never has been a member, affiliate or employee of ICAEW or any other accountancy body). This ensures we carry out our role of maintaining the highest professional and ethical standards within the accountancy profession in a proportionate, accountable, consistent, transparent and focussed manner. There are 22 IC members, plus a Chair of the Committee. 

The IC abides by the Investigation Committee Regulations which set out the procedural rules for considering complaints and the ICAEW Guidance on Sanctions which set out guidelines to determine the appropriate sanction to impose.

Attending the IC: The IC will make its decision on documents alone. You do not have the right to attend the IC meeting when the complaint against you/your firm is reviewed. If the IC believes it would find it helpful to meet you/your firm and to ask questions before it makes its decision, it may invite you/your firm to the meeting. 

Costs: If the IC determines that there is a case to answer and you/your firm accepts the consent order, you/your firm will be required to pay some/all of the costs of investigation. This will be determined by the IC. If the consent order is not accepted, the case will be referred to the Disciplinary Committee (DC). The DC will consider the costs from the investigation and those accrued preparing for the hearing together.

Information sharing: As the subject of the complaint, you/your firm is entitled to know about any evidence/information we hold. You/your firm is also entitled to have a copy of all relevant papers that the IC considers. 

If you/your firm provides information that you don’t want us to share 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.

If the IC finds there is a case to answer, it can:

  • decide to take no further action;
  • invite the member or firm to accept an unpublicised caution;
  • invite the member or firm to consent to an order; or
  • refer the complaint to the DC.

If the IC offers an unpublicised caution, there’ll be no publicity and no fine, although the caution will be included on yours and/or your firm’s record. You may also have to pay costs. If you do not accept the caution, the case may be referred to the DC.

If the IC invites you/your firm to consent to an order eg, a reprimand, fine and costs and you/your firm are prepared to accept it, the IC will make the order without referring the case to the DC. Once a consent order has been made, we’ll publish the details.

If you/your firm doesn’t consent to the order you/your firm can ask the IC to reconsider its decision on the basis of fresh information. If you/your firm rejects the consent order or the IC considers the matter too serious for it to deal with, the complaint may be referred to the DC. The IC has no powers to make you pay compensation, except for return or waiver of fees.

We’ll write to both parties shortly after the meeting to communicate the IC’s decision and the principal reasons for that decision. 

Can I appeal against the IC’s decision?

If the IC finds a case against you/your firm and asks you/your firm to consent to a disciplinary order, you/your firm can choose whether or not to accept the committee’s decision, including the financial penalties. You/your firm can make representations to the IC, for example on your/your firm’s financial circumstances. 

If you/your firm chooses not to accept the committee’s decision, or if you/your firm doesn’t persuade it to change its decision, the IC will refer the complaint to the DC. You/your firm will have the opportunity to put your defence to a tribunal of the DC, to be legally represented and to call witnesses. If the tribunal makes an adverse decision, you/your firm may make an appeal against that decision to the ICAEW Appeal Committee.