As a licensed public accountant or certified public accountant (CPA) in Pennsylvania, you have worked very hard to get where you are today. You've invested loads of time and money into your schooling, plus thousands of hours sitting under another licensed accountant, then sitting for the grueling CPA exam. That's why it can be so scary and demoralizing to find out that someone has filed a complaint against you and that your license is under investigation.
An allegation of wrongdoing is all it may take to jeopardize your future as your license is key to your livelihood. The Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy will investigate all complaints carefully. If they find that the evidence against you suggests that you are guilty, then they have the authority to revoke your license. That's why it is vital to hire an experienced Pennsylvania license defense attorney at the first sign of trouble.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has defended licensed professionals against allegations of wrongdoing in Pennsylvania for years and knows how to form a tough defense. He wants what's best for his clients, and he'll work tirelessly to ensure you get the best possible outcome in your case. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your options.
What Allegations Could Jeopardize my Accountant's License in Pennsylvania?
Being a public accountant or CPA requires a huge amount of public trust, which is why the State Board of Accountancy regulates its licensees strictly and holds them to high standards of ethical and professional excellence. Most allegations that could cause you to lose your license have something to do with violating these standards or compromising public trust. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Criminal convictions. A criminal conviction may disqualify you from holding a CPA license, especially when it comes to crimes related to fraud.
- Gross negligence, dishonesty, or fraud in accounting practices. Examples might include filing false or inaccurate tax returns for clients, not filing required returns, or providing inaccurate information on a company's balance sheet. Another example is mishandling a client's personal information.
- Violating the rules of professional conduct. Like most states, Pennsylvania expects its licensed accountants to adhere to the Code of Professional Conduct set by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). If you violate these standards, you could lose your license.
- Any additional professional or ethical violations that would suggest you are unable to carry out your duties.
The License Disciplinary Process in Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has streamlined the process for filing complaints against licensed professionals in the state, including public accountants and CPAs. The Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) handles and investigates all complaints against licensed professionals in the state. Although anyone can file a complaint, most complaints against public accountants come from clients, former clients, and colleagues. After a complaint has been filed with the BPOA, the disciplinary process moves through the following stages.
After receiving a complaint, the BPOA will appoint an investigator from the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation (BEI) to delve into the situation. This involves interviewing those with knowledge of what happened (including the complainant), subpoenaing any related documents, and more. You may also be asked to provide a written response to the complaint. If the investigator can't find sufficient evidence to substantiate the complaint, the matter will be closed with no further action. If, however, evidence is discovered, the disciplinary process moves forward.
If the evidence against you is significant and disciplinary action is probable, the Board may try to negotiate a consent agreement with you rather than having a formal hearing. A consent agreement is a binding agreement between you and the state in which you agree to submit the recommended disciplinary actions. If you can provide evidence to refute the complaint, signing a consent agreement might not be the best option, especially since it constitutes an admission of guilt and pretty much guarantees a negative mark on your work record. But if the evidence against you is compelling, a well-negotiated consent agreement may "soften the blow" and reduce the penalties you'd have faced otherwise, even providing a path to reinstatement of your license.
Without a consent agreement, the next step is to call you in for a formal hearing with a state examiner. Here, you may have an attorney present and will be asked to show cause why your license should not be revoked. The Board will then make a final decision regarding disciplinary actions, which may be as mild as a formal reprimand, or as severe as suspending or revoking your license.
Why Hire a Pennsylvania License Defense Attorney?
If you're suspected of wrongdoing by the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy, there is no guaranteed presumption of innocence. The protection of the public is always the top priority. Upon receiving a complaint, the Board begins an investigation in which they actively look for evidence to support disciplinary action. Because the burden of proof is low, you are automatically at a disadvantage.
If you have an attorney on your side who is familiar with the Pennsylvania license disciplinary process and has experience defending against accusations of misconduct, you will be in a better position to keep your license and, as a result, your career. Your attorney can review the complaint against you, help you gather evidence to bolster your case, and negotiate with the Board and the BPOA on your behalf for leniency or to have the complaint dropped. Most importantly, your attorney can provide you with the best possible advice and help you make informed decisions throughout the disciplinary process.
If your Pennsylvania accountant license is at risk due to a complaint, it is important that you take proactive steps to protect yourself. Attorney Joseph D. Lento can greatly improve your chances of coming through the process with your license intact. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.