Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Accountants demand powers to handle wills & legal services, offering 'crooked' self regulation and little consumer protection in return

Hot on the heels of the Commercial Attorney's application to represent members of the public in the legal services market, which I reported on late last week, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland have jumped on the bandwagon and have submitted a similar application to the Scottish Government demanding their ‘Chartered Accountants’ be allowed to handle legal affairs for clients such as wills & probate services.

You can read more about the ICAS application for rights of audience here : ICAS application for rights of audience and other applications made under Sections 25-29 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 here : Rights of Audience

ICAS application Sections 25-29 wills & probate 2 pageICAS application demands accountants be allowed to handle wills & probate services while concealing dangerous lack of consumer protection : "ICAS believes that its practising members, by virtue of their qualifications as Chartered Accountants, and of their knowledge and experience of personal and trust affairs, taxation and the compilation of all kinds of financial statements and accounts, gained over years in the provision of professional services to the public, are appropriate persons to be engaged in these services. It further believes that the public would wish to engage its members' services in this respect. ICAS believes it satisfies every aspect of the public interest."

While increased competition in the legal services market is of course welcomed by most consumers but perhaps not solicitors, the fact is that Scottish Accountants lack safeguards to protect clients & consumers when their work becomes poor, or is sufficiently 'crooked' to the extent that client funds disappear, are embezzled, or lost on notorious financial scams created by the accountants which are so complicated they can never be resolved.

Moreover, when a client discovers they have been robbed by their accountant, they often find themselves bullied out of any legal representation they can obtain simply because the accountants firm is too powerful and linked to many local legal firms businesswise, making it 'not in the interest' of anyone to legally represent clients ruined by Chartered Accountants and proceed cases to sue crooked accountants and their regulator for recovery of lost funds.

One area where such financial scams against clients are easy to get away with, relate to wills & probate services of deceased loved ones, where it is almost impossible to recover the many millions of pounds each year stolen by accountants and solicitors from the estates of dead family members, who willed their possessions & assets to their loved ones but more often end up in the back pockets of the accountants and solicitors dealing with their affairs post death.

The following is what ICAS are seeking in terms of 'rights of audience' for Chartered Accountants to handle certain aspects of legal services for clients :

ICAS application Sections 25-29 wills & probate Nature & Scope of rights soughta. petitions to a Sheriff Court for appointment of executor's dative in intestate estate; (and some testate estates); b. applications to a Sheriff Court to resolve informalities in the execution of certain Wills; c. applications to a Sheriff Court to resolve queries regarding the domicile of the deceased; d. applications to the Court of Session where an original will has been lost but there is an extant copy; e. written applications to a Sheriff Court to present the inventory (of the deceased's estate), which is the basis for which confirmation will be granted.

While the work above will be self-egulated by ICAS - that is, accountants will regulate any complaints against accountants carrying out the work, there will be no external safeguards for clients such as a measure of ‘independent’ regulation and oversight by the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, who will regulate the same work only if it is carried out by your solicitor.

Here is the example of what happened to me at the hands of a notoriously crooked Borders Accountant, Norman Howitt, now with the JRW Group of accountants which spans the Scottish Borders : A picture is worth a thousand words - Images of fraud reveal corruption & deceit by lawyers & accountants in the Scottish Borders

Despite ICAS claims to the contrary, there were no safeguards for my late father's assets .. Norman Howitt and the solicitor, Andrew Penman, of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso, simply pulled the estate apart for themselves, and not content with doing that, Norman Howitt then made a grab for the assets of my mother too, insisting she turn over all her money to him for his own control, losing my mother in a malaise of complicated legal documents she lacked any impartial legal consultation to protect from a very wicked attempt to rob her of her money.

You can read more about what happened and how the Scotsman newspaper covered the story of Norman Howitt & Andrew Penman here : Andrew Penman & Norman Howitt : Lawyer & accountant team up to ruin Cherbi executry estate

Indeed, such were the lack of 'safeguards' on Mr Howitt's activity, when it was discovered he had embezzled money from the sale of assets of my late father into his former accountancy firm's accounts (Welch & Co, Hawick), he fabricated claims to the Police to try and put myself and my legal agents off the scent of his trail of embezzlement ... and as you can see from the 'investigation' carried out by the ICAS Chief of Regulation - Dr Tom McMorrow, who is now the ICAS General Council, Howitt's illegitimate use of the Police to conceal his trail of theft and brutality against my family was kept out of the investigation and report for fear of attracting the possibility of criminal charges against Howitt for his actions.

That is of course, but one case where an accountant deliberately and brutally set out to destroy a family solely for the purpose of gathering the money for his own control - that much is certain from the trail of documents which were leaked to me by solicitors running for cover at the extent of the scandal ... however, the trail of documents also show that Mr Howitt employed others to ensure he got his way, even to the extent of seeing they received huge sums of money free of charge just to ensure his own control over my late mother & father's assets ... a terrible situation which has been repeated many times over the years by accountants who have ruined the affairs of deceased clients for their own personal profit.

You may ask, what steps did I take to recover damages from what Mr Howitt did to my family ?

Well I took every step I could, but Mr Howitt and his accountancy firm, and even ICAS themselves, ensured I could not obtain legal representation to do anything about it. All the local legal firms were bullied into not representing me, because Mr Howitt's accountancy firm does business with all of the local solicitors ... and ICAS and the Law Society of Scotland saw to it I could not obtain any other legal agents from anywhere else in Scotland to handle the case, because of course, there were several firms of crooked solicitors also involved with Norman Howitt's mission to destroy my family's assets.

ICAS claim within their application that Chartered Accountants are required to hold Professional Indemnity Insurance to cover any losses arising from negligence or other losses generated by their poor work for clients.

ICAS application Sections 25-29 wills & probate Professional Indemnity InsuranceIndemnity Insurance claims we have all heard before which turn out to be useless : “Practising Scottish Chartered Accountants are required to hold PII cover and the amount is calculated by reference to their fee income (currently, the requirement is to hold two and a half times gross fee income). That level of cover would, in our submission, be insufficient to provide the necessary level of assurance. The precise level of cover is in the gift of the Institute and it would prescribe a minimum level for the firm, calculated by reference to estate values being administered by the member, and impose the further obligation of top-up cover for large estates. Member firms are already required to have "run-off" cover in place for two years post-trading.”

Well as it happens, when clients who have been ruined by crooked accountants ask for details of the indemnity insurance cover, they are kept in the dark, and ICAS themselves wont even disclose it, as I found myself when trying to pursue Mr Howitt for the huge financial harm he did my family - so this insurance cover which accountants hold to cover clients who lose out financially, is simply a pack of lies, a corrupt policy of protection for crooked accountants, similar to the same Professional Indemnity Insurance arrangements which have allowed so many crooked lawyers to escape without paying their ruined victims a penny.

I have reported on the woes of indemnity insurance regarding the legal profession here : Lawyers negligence insurance branded corrupt, anti-consumer as evidence reveals only one per cent of clients get chance of payout

Trust me – the same applies to the negligence & indemnity insurance ‘carried’ by Scottish accountants .. it is a little more than a scheme to protect the guilty from poor ruined clients … also many of the same insurers who insure solicitors, insure accountants …

It comes down to this - As you can see from the ICAS application, Scottish accountants want the power to 'Norman Howitt' your money & assets after your death by raising an application to the Scottish Government for permission to handle your wills and other related legal business which currently, they cant do.

Would you want what you own, what you have, what your family has worked for to be “Norman Howitted” away in a despicable series of events your family could possibly never recover from while trying to cope with your death ?

From my experience, I say that allowing the ICAS application is too dangerous and not in the public interest at this time.

There are inadequate regulatory safeguards over accountants who are still self regulated by their own colleagues, there is a severe lack of consumer protection offered against poor service (despite claims to the contrary) and to be honest, although I am loathed to say it, you are better taking your will and any such related legal business to a solicitor (or a qualified individual who is independently regulated), now that there is at least the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to carry out ‘independent oversight’ of what is going on.

My advice to you all : Keep your will and any legal affairs away from your accountant .. because you or your family will certainly regret the suffering and intense problems they will cause your family in years to come after your death when or if they typically decide to fleece your assets & estate as seems to be so common these days

Don’t believe the claims of ICAS, which is nothing more than a self regulating body which has no wish to compensate for the harm its members cause others.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for keeping us informed about this and I just want to say as a solicitor myself I do not like the way the Law Society has been silent on this matter.I believe it is not in our best interests nor those of the client for the ICAS application to go through.

Anonymous said...

no punches pulled as usual and good for you

for the record i'd never let any accountant near my will and will spread the word mate

good luck !

tigger said...

greedy accountants and greedy lawyers whats the difference ?
but i see your point over howitt and not wanting it to happen to anyone else

Anonymous said...

Its not often I agree with you Mr Cherbi but on this point I certainly do - accountants should not be allowed to practice law and I have heard of similar cases to that of your Norman Howitt report which should not be repeated.

Good work keep it up.

Anonymous said...

I'm just reading the ICAS application for rights of audience now.I disagree entirely with their reasoning over why they should be allowed to practice executry services.
Just because this happens in England & Wales does not mean its a good thing although I suspect they will resort to arm twisting if they don't get their way.

Anonymous said...

Are these the same multi-national firms of accountants involved in the frauds perpetrated by Enron, Marsh and others?

Are these the same companies whose 'creative' accounting has contributed in very large part to the current global financial meltdown?

No-one in their right mind would allow accountants a right of audience in any Court, far less allow them to 'regulate' themselves.

Anonymous said...

This is ICAS strong arming their way into the market and it wont do any good for your beloved consumer choice but anyway I see you agree with me so that's a start !

Anonymous said...

Called up the Law Society to ask if they would issue a statement on the ICAs application and the person I spoke to (whom I believe you know) feigned ignorance of the whole thing.

Could this have anything to do with our new Chief Executive?

Anonymous said...

Good report Mr Cherbi and I have to wonder why this has all been done so quietly ?

I will be calling up the idiots at the LSS in the morning whom we seem to pay not to tell us what is going on.

Anonymous said...

The following is from the ICAS website and it seems to back up your posting today of which the lesson must be do not let your accountant handle your will :

Disciplinary action re Gordon A Macphail CA

Mr Gordon A Macphail CA, has admitted liability to disciplinary action in respect of the following:-

That he is guilty of professional misconduct in terms of Rule 58(1)(a) of the Institute’s Rules in respect of his handling of the estate following the death of a client in November 2005 for whom he acted as Financial Guardian. The Committee has issued a reprimand to Mr Macphail in terms of Rule 67(2)(b), which he has accepted, relating to a number of departures from the standards expected of a Financial Guardian and, in particular, his failure to seek the early discharge of his position as Financial Guardian from the Office of the Public Guardian; and to co-operate with the Executor of the late client to ensure the timely and proper administration of the estate.

In terms of Rule 67(2)(b) of the Institute, the Investigation and Professional Conduct Enforcement Committee have also ordered Mr Macphail to pay a financial penalty to the Institute.

Anonymous said...

I read your lengthy report on what Mr Howitt did to your mother and father and I can only say I hope you get some justice for what this sick individual did to you and your family.

I too dont think accountants should be allowed to practice law and definitely not after reading what happened to you.

Keep up the fight Mr Cherbi

Anonymous said...

There is not a single piece of information I can find out about this on the Law Society's website.Shame on them for not informing the rest of us (even if they are a waste of space)

Anonymous said...

I got an email on my blackberry to come read your blog about the accountants taking over our business.Not happy about certain things I read here so I will call to check up on this tomorrow.

You should be in a newspaper too Peter.Worth a few lines more than some I could name !

Anonymous said...

"although I am loathed to say it, you are better taking your will and any such related legal business to a solicitor (or a qualified individual who is independently regulated)"

You will hate yourself in the morning for saying that laddie !

Anonymous said...

Good posting as usual Peter.Its a good thing we have decent writers on Scots law on the web because this week's hootsmon law section is pure toilet once again !

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 2.32pm

I'm surprised the Law Society hasn't raised at least a finger of protest ...

# Anonymous @ 2.54pm

I would have to agree with that !

# Anonymous @ 3.30pm

Preying on the vulnerable and deceased clients seems to be a national sport for some professions ...

# Anonymous @ 3.49pm

I agree with your points - just because accountants are allowed to do this in England & Wales does not mean its good for the Scottish market, particularly the way in which ICAS and accountants prevent clients from having access to legal representation when things go wrong ...

# Anonymous @ 4pm

I agree with your comment entirely and I hope the ICAS application is refused.

# Anonymous @ 5.35pm

Yes it does seem the Law Society have not published anything I can find about the Sections 25-29 applications by Bill Alexander, and ICAS.

Perhaps the Law Society is trying to keep a low profile for fear of being accused they don't want competition ?

# Anonymous @ 6.52pm

Thanks for that story - yes it does look like another example of Norman Howitt to me ...

# Anonymous @ 7.22pm

Thanks for your comment. I can but try, but I can assure you Mr Howitt and his friends at ICAS have done everything possible to ruin my life and prevent my access to justice. I also understand I am not the only victim of Mr Howitt's incapabilities as an 'accountant' ...

Thanks for all your comments and emails on the subject. I will be doing a follow up in the next few days with updates on the expansion of rights of audience in Scotland.

Anonymous said...

Still going strong after writing all that ! You definitely should be in the newspapers !

Keep up the good work my friend I admire y ou very much for what you are doing a great spirit and friend of people who suffer injustice

Anonymous said...

Full marks Peter

This is a brilliant posting and I will definitly not trust an accountant again

Anonymous said...

The best comment I read was the person who said who in their right mind would trust an accountant now after what happened with the banks.

They can go to hell the lot of them and their pals in the lawyers

Anonymous said...

Allowing an accountant to handle your will would be like letting a plumber do your rewiring.Definitely not advisable to say the least !

Anonymous said...

Good article Mr Cherbi.

I too wonder why this is all going off quiet as church mice.Doesn't anyone want to know about this before it is passed or is that the accountants association's idea ?

Lack of publicity usually means its not to everyone's benefit, wouldn't you agree ?

Anonymous said...

I used to work in an accountant firm and I wouldn't trust any of them with my affairs after I'm dead so take Mr Cherbi's advice and steer clear of your accountant when it comes to writing a will or doing the work after death.

Personally I am sickened by what Norman Howitt did to you.Such people have no place in professional life.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see you spoiling the ICAS party Mr Cherbi.I share your view that accountants should not be allowed to practice law.
How would they like it if we began poaching their business ?

Anonymous said...

You are spot on Mr Cherbi.I had dealings with McMorrow at the ICAS over what our accountant did to our firm.
He did nothing and the accountant was let off with a slap on the wrist while we went into liquidation.
Never trust an accountant is the lesson I learned and ICAS are just a bunch of crooks probably as bad as the Law Society

Anonymous said...

I talked to someone about your bent accountant Mr Howitt today and he knows a lot about other people he has left in a bad state too

Its a pity you werent on the internet at the time of it happening although I suppose there wasnt much interenet around in the 90s.Anyway I agree with those who say he should have been sent to jail for what he did and that includes your mothers lawyer and her relative too who seems to have got a lot of money for helping the Howitt cause.

Backhander City said...

Hi Peter

A valiant effort but please remember the SNP are the party of business and backhanders not the party for Scotland as everyone so mistakenly thinks.

I'm sure ICAS and their members will be filling up the coffers and bank accounts of the SNP just to make sure they get their way on this just like business always does with the SNP.

Remember if its worth doing in Scotland its worth doing with backhanders and they tell me backhanders have went up 500% to officials since May 2007 !

Anonymous said...

I imagine the Law Society and ICAS have come together over this to avoid an ugly confrontation so ICAS get to do some legal work but not all they want and since the Law Society appears to be weak these days bringing ICAS onboard will strengthen their hand.

Shit sticks together Peter - always remember that !

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Mr Cherbi.

Anyone with half an ounce of common sense should keep the hell away from accountants when dealing with wills and I hope the lesson is learned by your readers never to make an accountant an executor !

Anonymous said...

Yes Ive had to deal with ICas too after I tried to complain about my accountant.Mcmorrow and his friends treated me horribly and did everything they could to ruin my life.

Accountants are as much scum as crooked lawyers ifu ask me

Anonymous said...

I suspect those who say this is a done deal are correct.

Anonymous said...

Backhander City seems to have it about right oh and I heard a little story about a local snp councillor involved in a bit of a fiddle where lots of money has went missing from an estate so I suppose I will have to alert a few newspapers !

Anonymous said...

16,000 accountants coming into the legal services market - we don't need this nor do clients.It will not promote choice it will promote confusion and probably a lot more legal disputes.

Anonymous said...

So it looks like accountants want to get in on the stealing and thieving action too !

I hope they are stopped

Anonymous said...

but I think large backhanders to the SNP will get them in the back door

Anonymous said...

In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act and you my friend are a revolutionary when it comes to keeping us informed about scumbag leeching lawyers !