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Accountants’ Professional Indemnity Issues and Liability Exposures. By Simon Konsta. Basic Insurance Requirements. ICAEW requires any member holding a practising certificate to take out professional indemnity insurance Minimum levels of cover - 2.5 x gross fee income, minimum £50,000

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Accountants’ Professional Indemnity Issues and Liability Exposures

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Accountants professional indemnity issues and liability exposures l.jpg

Accountants’ Professional IndemnityIssues and Liability Exposures

By Simon Konsta


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Basic Insurance Requirements

  • ICAEW requires any member holding a practising certificate to take out professional indemnity insurance

  • Minimum levels of cover - 2.5 x gross fee income, minimum £50,000

  • PII must be obtained from a Participating Insurer


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Basis of Cover

  • Civil liability incurred in conduct of professional business

  • Development in range of services provided an issue:

    • Investment advice

    • D&O

    • Management Consultancy

    • IT Consultancy

    • Corporate Finance

  • The need for adequate understanding of business services, nature of client base etc


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The Nature of the Risk

Sample

  • Claims or circumstances referred to this firm

  • Period - May 2000 to May 2001

  • Population - overseas claims excluded

    - sole practitioners to “Big 5”

    Assumption

  • Informed assessment of maximum potential exposures, net of costs


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Source of Claims

Activity%

Tax33.3Corporate and personal

Audit 29.0Private and public companies

Transactional 16.6M & A, corporate finance/reporting and due diligence

Insolvency 7.5Liquidations, receiverships and other insolvency functions

Accountancy 5.5Valuations and general accounting

Trusts 3.7Trustees and executors

Consultancy and Others 4.4Predominantly IT


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Degree of Exposure

  • Banding of claims or circumstances

    (a)Less then £50,000

    (b) More than £50,000, less than £100,000

    (c)More than £100,000, less than £500,000

    (d) In excess of £500,000

  • Tax, consultancy and other categories - general spread amongst bands.

  • Audit - 50% in (d) category but otherwise evenly spread amongst (a) - (c).

  • Transactional - 88% in category (d) with a greater potential for catastrophic losses.


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Other Features

  • Fraud

    • significant contributing factor in 20.3% of cases

    • significant contributing factor in 28% of audit claims

  • Insolvency: 27% of cases connected to insolvency or client failure

  • Institute or other regulatory involvement: 16%


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The statistics in context

  • Developments in the duty of care

    • The Caparo influence - restriction on statutory auditors’ duties of care

    • Invaluable tool for discouraging and disposing of third party audit-derived claims

    • But not an accountants’ charter

      • audited company suffering recoverable losses may still sue

      • statement of tortious principles applied to establish duties to third parties


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Risk Assessment Post Caparo

  • Transactional Work

  • Myriad of duties and potential duties

  • ADT v. Binder Hamlyn

    • Audit derived but multiplied exposure

    • Negligent misstatement

    • Rigorous risk management procedures


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Risk Areas Post Caparo (2)

  • Killick & Arthur v. PricewaterhouseCoopers

    • Benfield Greig Group Plc

    • Buy-back valuation

    • Alleged duty owed to shareholders

    • HELD: duty owed on Caparo grounds.

  • Regulatory Work

  • CAA v. Kounis Freeman

  • Law Society v. KPMG

  • Conclusion?

    • Enhanced risk associated with regulated clients


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Causation and Loss

  • Recent decisions reflect judicial reluctance to make professional advisers warrantors that

    (a)a company or business will be profitable; or

    (b)a transaction will be successful

  • The Courts will not contemplate an outcome by which the professional is deemed to underwrite a transaction or a company’s business fortunes


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Causation and Loss (2)

  • Scope of Duty

    • South Australian Asset Management Corporation -v- York Montague Limited [1997] AC 199

      • “But for” test not sufficient in itself

      • what consequences are attributable to the wrongful act of the accountant?

  • Causing loss vs occasioning the opportunity for losses to arise

    • Galoo Limited -v- Bright Grahame Murray [1994] 1 WRL 1360

      • Was the loss, as a matter of law, caused by the breach of duty?

      • Trading losses held to be irrecoverable


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Causation and Loss - What will be recoverable?

  • Overpayments

  • Money wrongly paid out

    • Audit - dividends paid out of capital due to overstatements of profit

    • Galoo tempered by Sasea Finance -v- KPMG (trading losses occasioned by fraud)

  • Defalcations by director or employee

  • Overpayment of tax and penalties

  • Wasted accountancy costs and management time

    • Plant & Planters (London) Ltd v. K J Fisher


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Company Law Review - Key Proposals

  • Status of Caparo

    “For some time, the basis of this ruling [Caparo] has been regarded as outdated and in need of reform to accord with the demands of a modern economy, where those who attach importance to the audit of financial statements include future investors/shareholders, suppliers, employees and creditors (including banks) to name but a few” - Developing the Framework - March 2000

  • Auditors’ duty of care to be extended to creditors and potential creditors and investors in their capacity as such if legislation capable of being drafted


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Company Law Review - The Volte-Face

“In view of the weight of these responses and the arguments raised we do not believe that the case has been made out for statutory extension of the duty of care of auditors in the way suggested in Completing the structure.”

“It is widely recognised that auditors’ so called “deep pockets” have ensured that, of the possible targets of professional negligence claims for financial loss caused by mis-statement in accounts, they are the favourites. This field of litigation has expanded hugely over the the last 35 years. Auditors’ exposure is now very great. It would be exacerbated by our recommendations widening their functions”. - Final Report - June 2001.

  • In short, development of the law of auditors negligence to be left to case law.


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Company Law Review - Additional Protection from Abuse

  • Limiting liability

    • Repeal of Section 310 Companies Act

    • Ability for auditors contractually to limit their liability subject to shareholder approval in general meeting and disclosure in audit report

  • Attribution

    • Fraud and breach of duty of directors and employees

  • Enhanced obligation of disclosure on directors in audit context


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Risk Management - What is the profession doing?

  • Enhanced focus on risk management meeting:

    • Client expectation

    • Readiness to litigate

    • Departure from core auditing and accounting and auditing functions

  • ICAEW roadshows

    • Education, Guidance and Direction


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