Category Archives: Accountant Malpractice

Attorneys: Be a Watchdog for Your Accountant Clients

The standard of care governing every professional begins with the scope of the engagement. That may seem fairly obvious to those in the professional malpractice community but it is often misunderstood by laypeople. Isn't a CPA engaged to detect fraud? Isn't a lawyer engaged to win my case? One of the difficult aspects of defending a malpractice case is overcoming the lay perspective of the precise role of a professional. Often the defense of a professional can turn on whether the fact finder fully understands the distinct role of the professional in the limited context of the facts presented. Accordingly, professionals should be proactive in ensuring that the parties and others refer to the applicable professional standard that governs the case.

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IRS Warns CPAs: Beware of Phishing

Businesses are increasingly becoming the targets of sophisticated cyber-attacks, and professionals are no exception. When cyber-criminals breach a professional service firm, they not only may gain access to the firm’s corporate data, but also confidential information from the firm’s clients. Therefore, it is incumbent on all professionals to make data security a priority.

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CPA Takes Advantage of Procedural Quirk

The idiosyncratic nature of the Louisiana legal system is one that is noted, if not explored, in many law schools around the country. Even as early as high school, many teachers will explain that Louisiana is unique insofar as its legal system is based primarily on Spanish and French civil law, rather than the British tradition used in the other 49 states. The differences between Louisiana and the rest of the country do not end there, however, and a large accounting firm was recently successful in obtaining dismissal of an action based on a Louisiana-specific accounting malpractice statute.

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When Does the Clock Start?

The application of the statute of limitations affirmative defense is theoretically simple, yet practically complex. Often, the issue is when does the clock start; i.e. when does the claim accrue. The result varies by state and may come down to the specific fact pattern. The water may be muddied further if the plaintiff incurs more than one injury. This is relevant to the professional malpractice community. Take for example a recent California accountant malpractice case involving state and federal audits and $10 million on the line.

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Auditor Dismissed from $50 Million Securities Class Action Suit

In a decisive win for the malpractice community, an independent auditor achieved dismissal in a securities fraud class action lawsuit by way of a 12(b)(6) motion. The Middle District of PA dismissed some of the claims against a troubled bank and all claims against the bank’s public offering underwriter and its outside auditor. The court accepted the auditor’s arguments that the plaintiff had failed to establish the requisite element of scienter necessary to maintain a securities fraud claim and, moreover, had failed to properly plead that the auditor did not “honestly hold” its audit opinions with reference to the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court Decision in Omnicare. Given the stakes of this litigation, like many securities claims, the victory may serve as an important template for other auditors to follow when faced with similar claims.

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Auditor Has No Fiduciary Duty to Company

In a widely watched and long-awaited decision, the North Carolina Supreme Court definitively determined that an independent auditor has no fiduciary duty to the company, overturning a 2014 Court of Appeals decision finding that such a duty existed. The court, however, was evenly divided on the issue of whether the company’s claims were barred by the defenses of in pari delicto and contributory negligence, leaving undisturbed (albeit without precedential value) the Court of Appeals’ decision that the defenses did not bar the remaining claims. Certified public accountants live to fight another day for the validity of the in pari delicto defense in North Carolina.

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SEC Big 4 Settlement: CPA is Too Close to the Client

Eager young accountants - all professionals, really - often set high goals, but the most common endgame for most is to become a “rainmaker.” Those who build significant relationships and turn leads to a regular stream of business are often in a position to excel professionally. While perceived expertise in a particular field is a must, it is often the relationships that set these partners apart. But when does a relationship become so familiar that a CPA may lose his independence? The SEC recently weighed in on that topic in announcing its recent settlement with Ernst & Young.

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Faulty Audit Lands Accountant in Hot Water

The most common forum for malpractice claims is civil litigation. However, a professional may find himself in a potentially worse situation if the appropriate professional regulatory board also gets involved. Take for example a recent case of accounting malpractice that demonstrates the serious side effects that can occur when an accountant falls short of the standards of the profession.

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Lessons from Largest U.S. Tax Fraud in U.S. History

If you are in the world of finance, accounting or tax chances are you have probably heard of Sam Wyly and his late brother Charles Wyly. In recent years, the business mogul brothers have been the hot topic of litigation as they battled with the IRS and SEC over alleged tax and securities fraud that may have spanned decades. In the most recent decision to come out of the Wyly saga, Sam Wyly was ordered by a Dallas bankruptcy court to pay $1.1 billion in back taxes, interest and penalties. While the litigation is noteworthy because of the massive amount of dollars involved, it can also provide some reminders for tax professionals, particularly those with sophisticated clients.

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In Pari Delicto Not Enough to Save an Accountant

In the face of corporate fraud and deceit, it is not uncommon for the defrauded entity to turn on its professionals. The inevitable issue becomes who is responsible for overseeing the enterprise: the business entity or the independent professional? Perhaps both. The in pari delicto affirmative defense can be an effective tool for professionals to shield themselves from liability arising from alleged wrongdoing of their underlying client. For example, we previously posted a victory for an accountant who successfully asserted the defense here. But, how and when to assert the defense is tricky as evidenced by a recent Pennsylvania District Court decision.

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