All resolutions have passed overwhelmingly despite low voter turnout.
CA ANZ members approve tighter conduct rules
CA ANZ members have voted overwhelmingly to strengthen the body’s conduct rules by passing a raft of resolutions that include significant increases in fines and the ability to order fee refunds in the case of a serious ethical breach.
All 14 resolutions – including nine specifically addressed to CA ANZ – passed with approval rates ranging from 77 per cent to 92 per cent although turnout, at fewer than 6,500 members, represented less than 5 per cent the 136,700 total.
Chief executive Ainslie van Onselen said the outcome had “never been more important” as the profession’s reputation was under threat.
“At a time when the public needs to see an effective and robust response to some of the contemporary issues we have seen in recent times, this member endorsement is vital to upholding trust in the profession, and the integrity and reputation of the Chartered Accountant designation,” she said.
Chair John Palermo said he was pleased that members got involved.
“In a year in which the accountancy profession’s reputation has been impacted by the unacceptable and unethical conduct of a few, it’s been important to see strong member support for bylaws/NZICA rules changes that will enable CA ANZ’s Conduct and Disciplinary Framework to deal more effectively with matters involving firms,” he said.
The vote endorses the findings of a review of conduct rules prompted by CA ANZ’s widely criticised response to the KPMG cheating scandal last year, which involved hundreds but resulted in sanctions on just eight unnamed members.
This year the PwC tax cheating affair has focused a spotlight on professional services misconduct with executives grilled by parliamentary inquiries and an internal firm review that criticised its results-focused culture.
The member vote closed on 20 October, the day of CA ANZ’s AGM, and all resolutions passed despite some member objections to Resolution 6, which allowed the conduct process to intervene in fee disputes and demand refunds were there was an ethical breach.
Accounting software outfit ChangeGPS said the change could expose firms to “financial penalties from disgruntled client claims”.
One of chief critics of Resolution 6, Paul Meissner of 5ways Group, said CA ANZ had a “lot to do to re-establish trust” from the membership.
“CA ANZ needs to show the industry that they are able to uphold ethics in the profession, specifically of the Big 4,” he said. “They need to prove that this vote wasn't just a big distraction from their impotence on major ethical issues.”
Other outcomes from the vote include:
- An increase in maximum fines from $25,000 to $100,000 at the Professional Conduct Committee level, and from $50,000 to $250,000 at the Disciplinary Tribunal Level.
- More effective discipline for firms.
- Extending the power of disciplinary bodies to the serious misconduct of former members.
- Closer alignment of CA ANZ bylaws and NZICA rules.
- Stronger and more efficient investigative powers for the Professional Conduct
CA ANZ said it had already acted on some of the conduct review findings, including:
- Bolstering mandatory ethics training.
- Increasing the transparency of CA ANZ monitoring and professional conduct activities.
- More extensive guidance for members on personal self-disclosure
The amended bylaws require royal assent of the Governor-General and are expected to take effect late this year or early next year.