If you’re facing a statement of concern or complaint and hold a California Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license, hire an experienced professional license defense attorney as soon as possible. The Board of Accountancy within the Department of Consumer Affairs treats consumer complaints and reports of criminal charges or convictions against licensees very seriously. It has the authority to impose disciplinary actions such as suspension or revocation of an accounting license.

We at the Law Office of Sara L. Caplan have extensive experience working with the Board of Accountancy and can help defend your professional license and livelihood, just as we have successfully done for many past clients.

California Board of Accountancy’s Mission

The California Board of Accountancy (CBA) licenses four types:

  • Partnerships.
  • Corporations.
  • Accounting firms.
  • Certified public accountants.

The first type is issued to individuals while the remaining three are business licenses. Its mission is public protection, rather than benefiting accountants and accounting firms. The board exists to protect individuals from financial harm and ensure that the highest standards are maintained in the practice of public accountancy.

It does this by limiting the issuance of accounting professional licenses to qualified individuals who are likely to act in the public interest, ensuring all businesses and accountants comply with provisions in California BPC, California Accountancy Act, board rules, and other laws and regulations, monitoring compliance in the marketplace by establishing enforcement mechanisms authorized by statute through which it may grant, suspend or cancel accountancy licenses.

Also, by receiving written complaints regularly about licensed accountants under investigation for crimes or who have unreported criminal convictions.

Possible Disciplinary Actions

Title 16 Sections 1 through 99.1 California Code Regulations; Cal BPC 5000 Business & Professions Code grants significant authority to CBA. These statutes allow CBA to establish an Enforcement Advisory Committee and Enforcement Division.

CBA may regulate the practice of public accountancy in the state, including through enforcement agencies established by statute that may grant, suspend, or cancel an accountancy license. The Enforcement Division and Enforcement Advisory Committee receive a regular flow of initial complaints and handle cases involving licensed accountants convicted of a crime.

As a result, CBA may impose various disciplinary measures against its member licensees:

  • Denial of a recently filed application for an accounting license.
  • Issuing a letter of reproval or criticism publicly available online.
  • Imposing both administrative fines and citation.
  • Suspension or revocation of accounting license.
  • Granting a stay of revocation and placing the licensee on probation.

Apart from disciplinary penalties, filing civil or criminal charges against you is a possibility. If your case is serious enough, the CBA may choose to do so.

However, even the mildest of disciplinary actions can still have consequences for your business. The second punishment, posting an apology online may seem minor but it can still affect you to a great extent. It is possible to lose existing clients or struggle with attracting new ones just because they’ve seen that you were disciplined by the CBA.

That’s why it’s important to seek legal counsel immediately if faced with any form of discipline. This way, you can prevent further damage caused by a bad reputation. A professional licensed attorney has the knowledge and expertise required when dealing with these types of issues.

The Role Of California's CPAs

Financial records are very important for every business under California law. Many employers often hire professionals to manage their budgets, taxes, and other financial matters to be compliant with the law.

Certified public accountants are often employed regardless of a firm's size. They ensure that businesses are well-informed about their financial status and also provide insights required for decision-making relating to future revenue growth and clientele expansion.

Unfortunately, losing a license as a certified public accountant is easier than obtaining one, even after spending years attending school and going through training for such an expensive license process.

Accountants face various kinds of accusations, which usually involve financial crimes like fraud, money laundering, and embezzlement, very frequently due to their role in managing a company’s money. However, an error resulting from no malicious intent could put your CPA license in jeopardy too. Additionally, you might find yourself fighting to keep it if an irritated employer accuses his CPA of being careless or incompetent when his own company fails.

A professional lawyer knows how important certified public accountants (CPAs) are in the state where they practice law. Lawyers are also aware that several risks and challenges come with being an accountant every day. These could put your job and license in danger.

They know that many accusations against CPAs are usually false or exaggerated. They’re not here to judge you for mistakes made in the past, either. Regardless of what the complaint is about or how much you will be disciplined, a professional lawyer will defend you as well as your license and work towards finding the best resolution possible.

How Your CPA License Could Be Impacted By A Criminal Charge

CPAs and other professionals who have licenses in accounting might find themselves facing criminal accusations at some point in their careers. The California Board of Accountancy sometimes works together with law enforcement agencies to gather evidence through covert sting operations.

The board can impose additional disciplinary measures if a CPA is charged with a crime apart from legal proceedings and potential punishment. However, it’s important to note that the misdemeanor or crime must be substantially associated with your profession for it to affect your accounting license since licensing boards take a broad view of what is considered related enough.

Under the "substantially related" category, these crimes are included:

  • DUI or DUID.
  • Simple Controlled Substance Possession.
  • Possession to sell.
  • Fraud-related offenses.
  • Not providing accurate disclosures.
  • Evading taxes.
  • Sexual assault or domestic violence.

If the CBA believes you have committed a crime, they will work with the Department of Justice and Attorney General to bring charges against you. This also includes many other financial crimes. Your accounting license would be revoked if found guilty. You would then be prosecuted in that area's jurisdiction. These charges tend to be federal and involve multiple law enforcement agencies.

Also, it’s important to point out that the commission on board's complaints is not just due to a single thing. There are many things a lawyer can do that aren’t illegal but still cause you trouble with the California Board of Accountancy (CBA).

Other times, however, the CBA will initiate civil proceedings against you as well. For example, if you were criminally negligent there are financial liabilities to be held accountable for and could end up in criminal charges.

If this all happens at once then take every notice seriously. Notice of investigations and potential complaints should be managed professionally. Hiring a professional license lawyer is very important when stuck in these situations as they will know how to deal with them effectively. Considering your accounting license is vital to your income, it makes sense why you should protect it like any other valuable property.

The Process From Filing Complaints To Final Decision

Various motives and sources can lead to complaints on different issues. The Board of Accountancy also recognizes that there may be significant differences in the initial force of complaints. In some instances, many complaints during this stage may not have any proof whatsoever and hence could be dismissed, while others take months on end to be fully investigated.

On average, it takes about five months from the time you file a complaint against a certified public accountant until its case is resolved. But sometimes it can last longer. Additionally, a professional license defense attorney will move quickly to reverse any temporary suspension by petitioning for an order allowing you to continue practicing during a pending investigation.

By contesting the complaint vigorously and promptly, your lawyer can dismiss it in many cases and save your business from bad publicity. Sometimes that might not happen so he or she could alternatively try negotiating for a settlement that will enable you to keep your license.

When their argument has more merit then they submit an official complaint which is available on their website for public consumption. At this point, your attorney should write a letter of defense against the concerns raised in the accusation. This often leads to dismissal or another way out.

However, sometimes there must be an official administrative hearing. When necessary, your attorney will properly prepare for representation throughout the hearing session. They shall get an opportunity to question and present evidence that shows innocence or reduce charges made against you by the prosecution. Your attorney may also include some mitigating factors alongside aggravating evidence presented by the prosecution.

Aggravating Factors

Below are examples of certain cases where harsher professional penalties are likely:

  • When such a person had already faced professional discipline earlier particularly if involving similar or the same issues.
  • The violation was done voluntarily and cautiously planned.
  • A valid customer suffered financial losses.
  • Any money was gained personally by the licensee resulting from its faults.
  • Licensee understood that other person would have significant harm, particularly one belonging to a vulnerable class.
  • The cash loss was relatively high.
  • The violation involved substantial breaking away of “fiduciary duty” by the licensee either stealing his/her funds.
  • Such an individual is on probation for a violation previously committed.

Board investigators and one of its accountants have gone dark since the investigation opened, officials say.

Mitigating Factors

These are some examples of mitigating factors that can reduce sentences in cases where dismissal is not an option:

  • The misconduct did not cause any physical harm to customers, clients, or members of the public.
  • It was an honest mistake or resulted from sudden provocation.
  • Low risk of harm.
  • There was no major breach of fiduciary duty.
  • The defendant’s motivations were not primarily monetary.
  • Throughout the investigation, the licensee has been cooperative with board investigators.
  • The accused shows signs of recovery.
  • Offender is remorseful.
  • The debtor already paid back part on his or her own.
  • The registrant had less culpability than other participants in the scheme.

Your lawyer would argue these and other mitigating factors before the Board. This could result in them deciding against revocation with probationary licensing and instead opting for suspension or no action. They could also impose less restrictive probation terms and end probation early.

A skilled attorney will advocate for you at every stage possible, going through the Board’s Disciplinary Guidelines to request more lenient measures. Should your license be revoked, they will assist with reinstatement petitions or a denied application for licensure.

How a Professional License Defense Lawyer Can Help

The task of a professional license defense lawyer is simply to save your job and license.

Government organizations that are in charge of granting licenses are also in charge of revoking them if you have committed any sort of misconduct or unlawful acts.

When this happens, a licensed professional defense attorney will represent the accused licensee. Here’s an outline of what they do:

Application Appeals

If your application has been declined or you’ve received a “Statement of Issues,” then you should get an experienced occupational licensing lawyer.

Discipline Defense

Defending professionals who have done something unethical or have acted inappropriately and face having their license taken away.

Reinstatement Requests

After your license has been taken away and you want to go back into the field, this process can help. A legal representative will speak for you during these negotiations.

Why Should You Hire a Professional License Attorney?

You need someone with experience by your side when it comes to dealing with judges, courts, and negotiation boards. An experienced professional license defense attorney can help you get shorter probation periods and better terms when possible. You won’t have to worry about getting lost in disciplinary procedures when you’re being guided by a licensed professional attorney.

They’ll prepare you for any board appearances while advising on what is best to say during proceedings so that you get the best-case scenario for yourself.

Contact a Professional License Defense Attorney Near Me

With a reputation built on providing responsive, informed professional licensing defense services, the Law Office of Sara L. Caplan attorneys specialize in certified public accountants licenses. If your CPA license hangs in the balance or your reputation is at stake, there is no time like now to contact us. We respond 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call us today at 310-550-5877.