Lake Bushells & Co
The Institute of Chartered Accountants In England & Wales
On the recommendation of my solicitors David Parry & Co of Grays in Essex, whose role in the affair is open to considerable criticism, I appointed the firm of Cooper Hathaway of Radnor House, 93-97 Regent Street, London to manage my accountancy affairs and to investigate the handling of certain capital gains tax matters by Lake Bushells (now trading as LB Group).
Cooper Hathaway confirmed, within days, that Lake Bushells had been negligent in handling my affairs. They further recommended that formal complaint be made to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW). Neither Cooper Hathaway nor David Parry & Co. filed any such complaint, for reasons still unexplained. I only became aware of this more than a year later, when disgusted by apparent lack of progress, I decided to investigate the entire matter personally.
Based upon the comments and advise of over others who had had dealings with the professional accountancy institutes, I was highly sceptical about making complaint to the ICAEW. I was disturbed by the general perception of this professional body and had no confidence that the Institute would take any real action - despite the seriousness of the case.
Dissatisfied with the performance of both solicitors, David Parry & Co., and accountants, Cooper Hathaway, I demanded the return of all correspondence files and started investigation of the matter myself. The Inland Revenue were highly cooperative and provided copies of missing correspondence. This not helped me, for the first time, to appreciate the incredibly bad handling of my affairs by Lake Bushells. The correspondence also proved that Cooper Hathaway had done little other than write two letters to the Inland Revenue notifying them of their appointment and asking for copies of correspondence. Apart than these letters, Cooper Hathaway's total input over the following two years amounted to answering three telephone calls initiated by the Inland Revenue. It was a true case of "out of the frying pan, into the fire!".
Despite the general consensus that I would be wasting my time, my disgust with both firms of Chartered Accountants led me to file formal complaint with the ICAEW on 19th April 2001.
The ICAEW immediately replied, stating that Lake Bushells were no longer active or registered with the Institute. The Institute's early communication totally endorsed the perception that they do not make it easy to make complaint against members, or possibly are not interested in hearing such complaint. I formed the firm opinion that the Institute would do everything possible to delay dealing with the complaint, or attempt to "sweep them under the carpet".
It is unnecessary to detail all correspondence here. However, my dealings with the Institute left me with the firm impression that the lax handling of matters demonstrated by Lake Bushells and Cooper Hathaway is probably endemic to the profession and extends to the ICAEW itself. Dealing with the ICAEW has been a total nightmare. Throughout my dealings, they made me feel that I was the defendant. Their entire complaints procedure appears designed to coerce complainant to give up in disgust.
The ICAEW totally dismissed my complaints against Cooper Hathaway. Despite the firm of Cooper Hathaway advertising itself as Chartered Accountants, it turned out that acting partner Simon Hathaway is not a Chartered Accountant. He has now been found guilty of misconduct over the matter by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants*. However, the ICAEW appears to have no control over 'firms' - only individual members. The ICAEW appear to be prepared to licence any firm or corporation to trade as Chartered Accountants, but appear unwilling to accept responsibility for the performance or conduct of those utilising this apparent guarantee of professional standards, except when they are qualified Chartered Accountants. In other words, they appear happy to allow non-qualified, or accountants qualified in other branches of the so-called profession, to trade under the title of Chartered Accountant. It's a crazy world!
Despite obvious reluctance to deal with the matter, the evidence was so overwhelming that the ICAEW had no alternative but to agree that "a prima facie case had been established" against Lake and Francis. It is my understanding that the ICAEW are so concerned about being sued by members, should disciplinary action result in loss of income, that they must 'negotiate' an acceptable penalty that will avoid legal action against the Institute.
Eighteen months after filing complaint, I had the satisfaction proving my case, but my disgust at the accountancy profession will remain with me for the rest of my life.
Click here to read the findings of the ICAEW.
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