If a settlement cannot be reached or if directed by the Professional Standards Committee, the case will be scheduled for a public hearing before the full Board. The licensee or his or her legal counsel have the right to present evidence in defense, including calling witnesses and introducing exhibits, to make objections, to cross-examine any witness called by the Board, and to make a closing argument. If they have not done so already, many professionals decide that they need to retain a firm or attorney at the formal stage.
Possible Discipline and Outcomes of the Public Hearing
After a formal hearing, the Board may issue an Order determining that there has been a violation and imposing discipline. N.C.G.S. 93-12(9) allows the Board the following actions in resolution of a hearing:
(1) Revoke the licensee’s certificate permanently;
(2) Revoke the licensee’s certificate for a specified period;
(3) Censure the licensee’s certificate;
(4) Assess a civil penalty not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) for any one or combination of the following causes:
a. Conviction of a felony under the laws of the U.S. or of any state of the U.S;
b. Conviction of any crime, an essential element of which is dishonesty, deceit or fraud;
c. Fraud or deceit in obtaining a certificate as a certified public accountant;
d. Dishonesty, fraud or gross negligence in the public practice of accountancy;
e. Violation of any rule of professional ethics and conduct adopted by the Board.
The Board publishes the disciplinary action against a CPA typically in its newsletter and on its website. All Orders, Board Orders, and Consent Orders are made a part of the Board’s monthly minutes and typically are placed in the licensee’s file in the database and provided to the public upon request.
An Order issued by the Board may be appealed to Superior Court. Generally, it is much more difficult for a licensee to prevail once the matter reaches the court system on an appeal, even if he or she retains legal counsel at that point.
Impact of Decision of Whether to Retain an Experienced Law Firm
If you have received a letter from the Board staff or have a pending formal hearing, you should consider retaining a firm like ours that has experience representing licensees before the CPA Board. Disciplinary action could have a significant and permanent impact on your license(s) in NC and other states, which also can substantially affect you financially and personally. Hiring an experienced law firm can be an investment in your professional future as a CPA.