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.

In a recent article for The Voice, two contributors to PL Matters discuss the standard duties performed by accountants, the “public watchdog” role, and best practices when representing an accountant during litigation. Citing MF Global Holdings, Ltd. v. Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP, the article highlights PwC’s successful motion in limine, which barred MF Global from referring to PwC as a “public watchdog” — a term the plaintiff intended to use to gain public sympathy before trial.

As set forth in the article, “Defense counsel must therefore remain diligent in identifying and objecting to such terms and phrases from the outset of any case. Doing so will help prevent confirmation bias of lay expectations of an accountant in a trial or an alternative dispute resolution.” The article is available here: “Attorneys: Be a Watchdog for Your Accountant Clients,” DRI’s The Voice, March 29, 2017.