A professional golfer – with a famous ex-fiance – recently filed a professional malpractice claim against his former accountant for allegedly concealing unpaid taxes in excess of $500,000. Hank Kuehne is an amateur champion who last played in a major tournament at the 2012 Honda Classic, but is perhaps best known for his prior engagement to tennis great Venus Williams. Reportedly, Kuehne had no idea of his mounting tax liability until he fired his advisor and retained a new accountant to manage his portfolio. A classic example of poor communication leading to malpractice.
Kuehne retained Thomas Bertsch, then an employee with McCormack Advisors International, to take care of his finances. Bertsch subsequently formed his owned company in 2007 and brought Kuehne over as a client. The relationship came to an abrupt halt in 2011 after Kuehne allegedly learned he had racked up over $500,000 in income-tax liabilities and penalties for 2006 and 2007. Kuehne also discovered Bertsch had offered the IRS $90,000 to settle his debt, according to Kuehne’s complaint, without the client’s knowledge or consent. The IRS allegedly countered with a $342,000 settlement offer, which expired after Bertsch failed to respond.
Bertsch allegedly never communicated any of these problems or concerns to his client which came as a complete surprise once discovered. Kuehne said that he did not realize how deeply he was in debt until he hired a new accountant. Using his birth name, Henry A. Kuehne II, the golfer filed a federal complaint against Bertsch in Florida, alleging fraud, negligence and other claims.
This is just another example of how the cover-up may be worse than the crime. It is possible that the professional could have avoided this situation, or at least the extent of the problem, had he timely and effectively communicated with his client.