Accountant fined after sweary rant at clients

An accountant has been fined £1,500 and ordered to pay £8,000 in costs to the ICAEW after launching into an expletive rant over a fee dispute with clients, which was found to breach professional behaviour rules

A tribunal of the ICAEW Disciplinary Committee found that Paul Singleton FCA breached s150.1 of the Code of Ethics, as a result of him using offensive language towards his clients outside a pub in Sheffield on 27 June 2015.

Singleton’s rant was the result of a fee dispute with the clients. He had previously undertaken accountancy work for the male client and also acted as an expert witness in proceedings in the family court between the man’s partner and her ex-husband. The fees charged by Singleton for acting as an expert witness had become the subject of a dispute between himself and his client’s solicitors.

By coincidence on the evening of 27 June Singleton bumped into his clients outside the pub. Singleton said to his male client ‘I am going to f****** have you with what I know about you’ before pointing at his partner saying ‘and you can f*** off and all’. This prompted his clients to make a complaint to the ICAEW about Singleton’s behaviour on 3 September 2015.

Singleton denied that his conduct was in breach of the code of ethics, despite admitting that he did use the offensive language.

He was reprimanded and fined £1,500. The tribunal initially applied for £11,858 costs, but Singleton’s representative challenged the work claimed and the complexity of the matter therefore the tribunal reduced the costs to £8,000.

Responding to the judgment, Paul Singleton told Accountancy: ‘In essence I am the first person ever to be reprimanded under code of conduct 150.1 by the ICAEW for using offensive language.  The whole disciplinary procedure was a stitch up as ICAEW were scared stiff of setting a precedent which did not suit them.’

Report by Amy Austin

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