ICAS, are seeking an amendment to the LPLA Bill, to allow their member Chartered Accountants or CA's, to have the authority to handle wills and probate .. which is currently an offence under the Law Reform (Misc Provisions) Bill 1990 .. where it is an offence for anyone other than a solicitor to handle such services - although you wouldn't think it from reading my earlier post on this subject here : http://petercherbi.blogspot.com/2006/03/norman-howitt-crooked-borders.html .
However, ICAS must be feeling slightly insecure over the terms of their amendment, since they have also made an application direct to the Lord Chancellor's office in the Department of Constitutional Affairs at Westminster, to authorise their members who reside south of the border, to handle probate services, in what looks glaringly obvious as an attempt to bully the Scottish Executive into inserting the amendment into the LPLA Bill, on the prospect that ICAS application to the DCA will be passed.
ICAS, the Instutite of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, is a seriously powerful governing body for accountants. It has what I would call extreme political clout, and particularly insidious links to government offices, which it's members have used directly in the past to stifle or bury complaints against some of it's more prominent, and corrupt members - certainly in my case, ICAS used it's influence and links with the FSA to kill off any investigation into how one of their accountants - Norman Howitt, ripped off my family, and even persuaded the FSA that it would be against the public interest to help me ... how corrupt is that ?
So, here we have ICAS, the self regulatory body for accountants, swinging their political muscle around again, wanting their way with the new LPLA Bill, which is designed to bring independent regulation to the legal profession .. just to ensure that accountants can get in on the act of handling wills and probate services.
However, while clients of solicitors will have the more powerful, accountable, and transparent shield of independent regulation to guard and protect them against their lawyers ripping them off when it comes to probate services, no such safeguards will exist for those clients who choose their accountants to handle wills and such servies, as accountants are completely self regulated by their own profession - accountants investigating accountants in the form of ICAS, and while ICAS want their members to be able to handle probate services, they certainly DONT want independent regulation to come to the accounting profession.
Indeed, over the past few months, ICAS have embarked on an PR exercise on the merits of their own sustem of self regulation over accountants, fearing that the changes to self regulation planned in the forcoming LPLA Bill, will also eventually come to the accountancy profession ... which I personally feel it should, to give consumers and clients more choice and rights when it comes to dealing with accountants.
ICAS wants us to feel that accounants are more honest than crooked Scottish lawyers.
In reality, accountants are even more crooked than crooked Scottish lawyers.
ICAS wishes us to feel their regulation of their own profession is more honest, transparent, accountable, etc .. than the way the Law Society of Scotland regulates the legal profession.
In reality, ICAS investigations are just as crooked and even more so, compared to the Law Society of Scotland's investigations against crooked lawyers ... so, the crooks of the financial profession beat the crooks of the legal profession ... it basically boils down to that.
Why should the accountancy profession be allowed in on handling probate services under their own system of self regulation, when lawyers who already do such work, will be working under independent regulation ?
I think it comes down to business - accountants want more money, as always, and a way to get it, is to get in on the act of taking on some of the work currently carried out by the legal profession .
More worryingly, having the authority to handle probate services, gives ICAS and the accountancy profession a further say in future legislation which may come in the future ... perhaps for instance, a piece of legislation comes along in a few years to futher protect consumers from occasional inadequacies which have cropped up from the LPLA Bill ... but with ICAS and the accountancy profession having authority to handle probate services .. they would be able to flex their political muscle and prevent such further consumer friendly legislation ... think about that.
There could be a futher and more sinister reason why should ICAS table an amendment to let their members handle such services under self regulatory powers of their own colleagues, in a bill which is designed to bring independent regulation to the legal profession.
The legal profession, don't want the LPLA Bill to come into legislation - even though the Law Society of Scotland officially supported the idea of independent regulation last december, they employed an army of consultants and university based professionals affiliated and paid by the legal profession to come out with a succession of reports condemning independent regulation of lawyers, even claiming it would be against lawyers ECHR rights to be independently regulated.
Well, many of the top officials of ICAS, and those who sit on the various ICAS committees, are also either members of the legal profession, or sit on Law Society committees, or are also connected with organisations which are connected with the legal profession.
Take Tom McMorrow for instance - he is a lawyer - he used to have a practice in Falkirk, Scotland, called McMorrows, which he sold to Jennifer Carpenter, the famous Scottish Advocate who embezzled some £60,000 plus of clients money.
Of course, Tom McMorrow had left the company by the time the embezzlement was discovered, and there was never any suggestion ... that McMorrow had anything to do with it or had any foreknowledge of what happened. At least, the Law Society of Scotland seemed to conclude that, from their own investigation if they carried one out.
So, we have a lawyer, unsurprisingly the Director of Legal Services for ICAS, cosily discussing amendments to the LPLA Bill with the Scottish Executive, also making applications direct to Westminster to make sure the amendment goes through in Scotland ... who himself takes direct part in investigations .. such as in my case against Norman Howitt .. and you can go back to my earlier post and read exactly what he did in that complaint ... yes ... he let Howitt, the crooked accountant, off the hook.
When I mentioned the Carpenter affair to Tom McMorrow in a letter during his investigation of Norman Howitt, and queried his role as an investigator, , he reacted abusively to me in correspondence, and was suspended from the investigation several times ... very odd I think that such a person should have been involved in enforcing 'standards' of ethics ... don't you agree ? .. and even more odd now that he should be trying to table amendments to a Bill of legislation which is designed to being independent regulation to the legal profession, but he does't want the same independent regulation for his own accountancy profession.
Oh .. another one that sits on the ICAS complaints committees ... is, or at least was, none other than Garry S Watson .. the former Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman . who was ordered by the Law Society of Scotland not to disclose documents to be in my complaint against the crooked Kelso lawyer Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors.
Mr Watson supported self regulation of the legal profession for the entire time he was in office, and I would describe his reign as SLSO as being one of the main obstacles to improvement of consumer rights against crooked lawyers .. he was so passionate about how much he supported his legal buddies over at the Law Society so much, he even engaged in letter writing battles with me in the Scotsman newspaper letters section, until someone at the Scottish Executive silenced him.
Indeed .. I remember the heady days that I would write letters in the Scotsman section on the perils of crooked lawyers and the Law Society of Scotland .. then a few days later, they would be responses from Mr Watson and the likes of Douglas Mill, Chief Executive of the Law Society, and other leading 'luminaries' from the legal profession, ... but their letters would always appear on the same days .. as if by some chance , resembling some kind of macabre coordinated ballet against the truth .. it was either that, or the Scotsman letters editor was having some fun portraying them as a gang of liars ... I prefer to think it was the former !
I have of course, made objetions direct to the Scottish Executive over ICAS tabled amendment to the LPLA Bill, and to the Lord Chancellor over the application to the DCA .. so we will see what happens next ... and I will print my objections here in a couple of days for you all to read.
So, people .. don't let crooked Scottish accountants try and mangle the LPLA Bill for their own ends - it will only be to the detriment to the consumer if they get away with this .
If you agree with me, or if you at least want to preserve the spirit of the LPLA Bill in it's quest to bring more transparent and independent regulation to the legal profession, make your objections to the Deputy First Minister, Nichol Stephen, at ; Scottish.Minsters@scotland.gsi.gov.uk, and to the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, at : email@example.com
I will publish my letters to both in the next couple of days here in this blog .. but for now, read on for the article, from "The Herald" newspaper, at : http://www.theherald.co.uk/business/65567.html (Herald link now out of date)
ICAS increases pressure on lawyers over probate services
NEIL FITZGERALD July 10 2006
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland last week applied for the authority to enable its members in England and Wales to provide full probate services, in a bid to spur the Scottish Executive into giving its members north of the Border the same freedom to compete with solicitors.
Icas started lobbying in March against what it described as a "manifest imbalance" caused by Scottish ministers' failure to keep pace with changes in legislation in England and Wales that have freed up access to the market in probate services.
After recommendations by the Office of Fair Trading, statutory instruments introduced well over a year ago implemented in England and Wales two sections of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990.
These allow financial institutions and members of bodies authorised by the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs to perform a key part of winding up an estate, providing the papers for probate, for a fee.
The Legal Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 broke the effective monopoly by solicitors by allowing licensed executry partners and banks and building societies also to charge a fee for conducting the equivalent process, preparing papers to apply for confirmation of an executor through the Sheriff Court.
However, it remains an offence for anyone else, including chartered accountants, to charge a fee for this.
Icas reacted furiously when it discovered in March that, not only was there no specific measure to change this in the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill, now going through the Scottish Parliament, but that what the Scottish Executive had said were plans to address equivalence with England and Wales through statute turned out to be non-existent.
Icas has since submitted a proposed amendment to the bill and been in discussion with various people in the executive, including Deputy First Minister and Enterprise Minister Nicol Stephen. "We continue to seek a change in the draft legislation to achieve equivalence with England and Wales," said Tom McMorrow, Icas executive director for regulation and compliance.
"The application for us to be authorised by the Department for Constitutional Affairs as a body under the Courts and Legal Services Act applies only to our members resident in England and Wales, and could take several months.
"But our hope is that the Scottish Executive will recognise the very fact that we can apply south of the Border means that there is no reason why an amendment cannot simply be inserted in the Legal Profession and Legal Aid Bill to enable the same up here."
Icas had set up a working party on this issue and feedback showed many members were interested in providing the full probate service, he said, "in particular sole practitioners". In its application to the DCA, Icas says that many CA clients obtaining advice on inheritance tax and financial planning are at a loss to understand why their accountants cannot conduct the winding up of estates as a natural part of that service.
The institute's executive director of membership and marketing, Catherine Eardley, said: "Many customers of CAs will welcome this move. CAs are at least as well qualified as lawyers to deal with the financial and tax implications arising from a death.
"We believe that CAs providing probate services would be good news for consumers. It would bring additional competition and expertise to the market.
That is very much in the public interest and we hope that the DCA will approve our application."
The Law Society of Scotland has already said that it is relaxed about the potential new competition for the full service, including confirmation of executry if the law was changed, especially as it believes most people would still prefer to obtain it from the solicitor who wrote and holds the will.
Meanwhile, if the Icas application to the DCA goes through, it may even beat its counterparts south of the Border in achieving authorisation.
A spokeswoman at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales said last week: "We are working at becoming an approved body, and have held a number of positive meetings with the DCA in this regard."