Auditors delay open hearings

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S largest accountancy body has delayed a decision on opening its disciplinary proceedings to the public.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales had been expected to reveal proposals for opening hearings to the public, but a preliminary report has raised a number of legal and ethical problems.

The institute may decide to opt for producing fuller reports of the results of the hearings instead. At the moment the reports give only the charges faced, the findings and the penalty.

Brian Harris, director of professional conduct, said that one concern was that other regulators, such as the Bank of England, the Department of Trade and Industry and Fimbra, the investment watchdog, might stop passing on information about accountants if such information ceased to be confidential.

The institute is also worried about the possibility of legal action over allegations made during the hearings, which could deter some complainants. Its hearings may carry legal immunity, but this will not be certain until a case is brought to court.

The institute also fears that members may not be able to defend themselves adequately - for example, by criticising superiors - if hearings are public.