Tauranga accountant Ian Stevenson has been censured by the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants and ordered to pay the $42,889 cost of his prosecution.
Ian pleaded guilty to three charges arising from a client complaint; dealing with client monies through his practice account rather than a trust account, withdrawing fees without authority and preparing accounts without due care and diligence.
The NZICA tribunal finds there is no evidence of funds lost or misappropriated.
The tribunal also acknowledges the issues Ian had in dealing with a client and co-trustee, who was hard to communicate with - refusing to provide residential or postal addresses and insisting on contact only by text message and fax.
A further charge relates to Ian failing to attend the Professional Conduct Committee’s final determination. At the hearing he accepted that he should have attended the final determination hearing notwithstanding at the time he believed his reasons for not attending to be valid.
“Mr Stevenson pleaded guilty to a technical breach of the trust account rules,” says his counsel Paul Mabey QC.
“He was in a difficult situation having regard to the attitude of his co- trustee. It was necessary for him to protect the trust assets for the beneficiaries and he had no alternative but to hold trust funds in his personal account for brief periods. The co-trustee refused to allow the trust to have its own account.
“The tribunal accepted that there was absolutely no dishonesty by Mr Stevenson or any misappropriation of funds. Every dollar was accounted for.
“His fault was to continue to represent a very difficult client who would not co-operate with him as co-trustee. He felt compelled to continue to represent the trust in the interests of the beneficiaries.”
The charges are that in his role as a Chartered Accountant in Public Practice and in relation to a complaint, Ian failed to comply with PS-2 (2003) or PS-2 (2008), as required by Rule 11 of the Code of Ethics, in that he:
Dealt with client monies belonging to A Trust through his BNZ Mortgage One account instead of a properly established trust account, in breach of paragraph(s) 7 and/or 14 of PS-2 (2003), and/or paragraph(s) 11(c) and/or 30 and/or 44 of PS-2 (2008).
That he withdrew fees and/or disbursements from funds belonging to A Trust, without written authority from Ms W (his co-trustee), in breach of paragraph(s) 30 and/or 32 of PS-2 (2003) and/or paragraph 50 of PS-2 (2008).
And that he failed to complete his professional duties as an accountant in preparing the financial information for the A Trust with the level of due care and diligence expected of a member holding a Certificate of Public Practice, in breach of the Fundamental Principle of Quality Performance and/or Rule 9 Due Care and Diligence.
The client’s name is suppressed.