Cooper Hathaway - The Professional Bodies
The Institute of Chartered Accountants
On 19th April 2001, I wrote to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW), asking them to notify me of their complaints procedure and notifying them that I wished to make formal complaint against Lake Bushells and Cooper Hathaway.
Having discussed the matter with various business colleagues, the general consensus was that complaint to the ICAEW would be a waste of time and effort. My subsequent dealings with the ICAEW totally endorsed this view. From the outset their tone and manner generated the impression that they simply wanted me to throw my arms up in despair and drop the complaint.
The ICAEW immediately rejected my complaints against Cooper Hathaway on the grounds that Hathaway was not a Chartered Accountant. This came as a major surprise to both myself and my solicitors. It also flew in the face of Hathaway's reply when, during our initial conference meeting, and in the presence of my two solicitors, I mentioned that I understood that they (meaning both himself and the firm) were Chartered Accountants. Whilst it is true that Cooper Hathaway (then Pethybridge Tarn) were licensed to act as Chartered Accountants, Hathaway did not divulge that he personally was not so qualified.
When the complaint was rejected by the ICAEW, I noted that letterheads from Cooper Hathaway showed Hathaway as "S.C.Hathaway FCCA". Had I noticed this earlier I would simply have believed this to be some new qualification from the ICAEW, supplementing the ACA and FCA with which most business people are familiar.
The fact that the senior partner of Cooper Hathaway, Dennis Cooper - who IS a chartered accountant - wrote to me on at least one occasion, proving that he was aware of the case, appears totally immaterial to the ICAEW. It is therefore evident that the ICAEW is quite happy to let anyone trade under the qualification of "Chartered Accountant", regardless of their accountancy qualifications, or lack thereof. It totally beggars belief.
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
Neither my solicitors, nor any of the dozen or more business people that I spoke to, could tell me who, or what, the FCCA qualification indicated. It was only through Internet searches that I was eventually able to link this qualification with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).
The ACCA's website similarly gives little or no indication in helping the reader to determine whether the body represent a 'senior' level of accountancy, or some form of simple bookkeeping qualification. The ACCA site boasts that they have more accountancy students than any other accountancy body. One notes the emphasis: "more students" - not qualified accountants. This raises several interesting questions about this body.
Over the following weeks, I raised the topic with various business people. Nobody knew what the ACCA qualification was, although I eventually met someone who had a "feeling", with no degree of certainty, that members of this association were known as "Certified Accountants".
I found the situation extremely disturbing, having apparently trusted my tax affairs to someone who was not necessarily qualified to provide the advise I so desperately needed. Worse still, my attempts at finding out what the ACCA represented were getting nowhere and I was extremely disturbed by the integrity and validity of a 'professional' body that gave me - and assumedly others - the clear impression that they were trying to pass themselves off - both through the name of their association and their qualification acronym - as Chartered Accountants.
Regardless of this, I decided to contact the ACCA and made formal complaint against Hathaway on 4th June 2001. Various letters followed. A member of their legal department telephoned me to clarify certain points and during that call I queried the name and qualification of the association. The lady concerned denied that members were "Certified Accountants". I have since been assured by the investigating office who took over the case that members are what was previously known as Certified Accountants. However, it says a lot about an organisation when their own staff are unsure of the meaning of the qualification.
At the end of August 2002, the ACCA notified me that a prima facie case of misconduct had been made out against Mr Hathaway and that the matter had been referred to their Disciplinary Committee. The Disciplinary Committee found the case proven. Hathaway did not lodge an appeal and was reprimanded, ordered to pay costs of £2,620 to the ACCA and the decision of the Disciplinary Committee was made public in the professional and local press, referring to Simon Hathaway by name.
This case has left me with nothing but contempt for the accountancy profession and the ACCA in particular. Despite the facts of the case and their own findings, the ACCA have done nothing but give Hathaway a mild slap on the wrist. From the moment I first contacted the ACCA I had little confidence that the complaint would be taken seriously. They have done nothing since to persuade me that my original thoughts were incorrect.
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