Once you gain your license as a public accountant in New Jersey (whether it be as a PA or CPA), you will have already made an incredible investment in your career. Between years of schooling, grueling exams, and field time working under another accountant, you've worked very hard to achieve your current level of success. But what happens if your license comes under investigation or you're accused of a violation? The New Jersey State Board of Accountancy will investigate any complaints made against you and has the power to revoke your license if there is enough evidence against you. A single complaint could undo almost everything you've worked for.
This is where a New Jersey professional license defense attorney comes into play. Having a knowledgeable attorney on your side can be the difference between keeping and losing your hard-earned license. It's not just about protecting yourself, but also safeguarding your reputation in the community.
With many years of experience helping licensed professionals deal with misconduct claims, attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento is your best choice if your accountant's license and/or certification come under fire. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your options.
What Accusations Can Result in a Public Accountant Losing Their License in New Jersey?
Public accountants and CPAs are entrusted with high levels of confidence since they have access to individual and/or company finances and financial records. With that in mind, it's little wonder that the State Board of Accountancy holds accountants to exceptionally high standards. Many of the issues that arise and end in disciplinary action are a result of violating these standards or otherwise harming public trust. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Criminal convictions. A criminal conviction could make you ineligible to obtain licensure as an accountant, especially if the offense was linked to fraud. Such a conviction could also cause an existing license to be revoked.
- Gross negligence, dishonesty, or fraud. Some examples of this type of misconduct are filing false or inaccurate tax returns, not filing required returns, mishandling client information, providing inaccurate company balance sheet information, giving falsified numbers, embezzling funds, etc.
- Violating the rules of professional conduct. Accountants in New Jersey are expected to adhere to the Code of Professional Conduct set by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). You could lose your license if you do not follow these standards.
- Any other professional/ethical violations that put your competence in doubt.
What Is the Disciplinary Process for Accountants in New Jersey?
In most cases, disciplinary actions against New Jersey nurses begin with a formal complaint filed with the New Jersey State Board of Accountancy—usually filed by clients, former clients, colleagues, or other members of the public. The disciplinary process then follows a prescribed set of steps as follows.
Request for Response
After a complaint is filed, you will receive notice from the Board and be asked to provide a written response. If your explanation of events is believable and supported by evidence, the Board may choose not to take any action. A good license defense attorney can help you write a convincing response.
The Board will send the complaint to the Preliminary Evaluation Committee (PEC) during the investigative phase, and the PEC will assign an investigator to look for evidence to substantiate the complaint. The investigator may conduct interviews with the complainant and witnesses, subpoena documents, etc. The PEC may also ask you to appear and testify under oath.
If the evidence against you is compelling, the Board may offer to negotiate a consent order with you in lieu of a formal hearing. A consent order is an agreement in which you agree to submit to the Board's recommended penalties for your misconduct. A consent order isn't always advisable, but it may be your best option if it includes a path to having your license eventually restated.
Absent a consent agreement, the next step is for the State to summon you to appear at a formal hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), where you will show cause why your license should not be revoked. An attorney can represent you at the hearing, during which both sides will present evidence. Afterward, the judge will make a recommendation to the Board as to what disciplinary action he/she recommends. This determination may range from a formal reprimand to a full revocation of your accountant license and/or certification.
Why Hire a New Jersey License Defense Attorney?
In license defense cases in New Jersey, unlike a criminal trial, there is no guaranteed presumption of innocence if you're accused of wrongdoing. The New Jersey State Board of Accountancy has a duty to protect the public, and they have broad authority to revoke your license based only on a preponderance of the evidence. This puts you at a disadvantage from the moment a complaint is filed against you. Without an attorney who is familiar with New Jersey's licensing process and has experience defending against misconduct accusations, your chances of losing your license--and livelihood--are much higher.
By contrast, hiring a skilled New Jersey license defense lawyer can make a huge difference in the outcome of the disciplinary process. Your attorney can help level the playing field for you at each stage of the process. Your attorney will have experience evaluating evidence, identifying weaknesses in the case against you, and developing a comprehensive strategy to defend your license. The attorney can also negotiate directly with the Board to get the complaint dismissed, get you the most lenient penalties possible, and/or help hammer out a path toward reinstatement if your license is suspended or revoked.
If you are a licensed public accountant in New Jersey and are facing possible action against your license, don't risk your livelihood by facing the allegations alone. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team will work to help save your license, and by extension, your career. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.