CIMA HAS HAD one of its controversial disciplinary rulings overturned on appeal.
The appeal has overturned a decision due to a "significant legal error" in the original decision against ex-council member Margaret May, clearing her of dishonesty.
May was initially found guilty of misconduct in a long-running disciplinary case focused on procedure and disputes in the institute's inner circle.
She was found guilty of two charges and ordered to pay costs of £55,000 at the end of last year.
However, an appeal tribunal has overturned one of the charges, as well as reducing her reprimand of payment towards costs to just £10,000 because of a legal error that cropped up in her disciplinary.
At the initial tribunal May was found to have "failed to act with integrity and professionalism" for sending an email to some of its members that included documentation for consultation, although the executive committee had not formally agreed that the documentation could be distributed to those certain members.
The initial disciplinary panel contended that May could not have come away from the meeting without understanding what had been agreed or not agreed in relation to consulting the Member Network about the document.
At that same disciplinary she was also found guilty of misconduct for "disseminating" a letter marked 'Strictly Private and Confidential' from chief executive Charles Tilley - in which he responded to her email about his Great Ormond Street Hospital non-executive directorship.
The charge that May had failed to act with integrity was overturned, but the appeal tribunal stood by the original ruling in relation to Tilley.
May gathered 20 character witness statements that specifically addressed her as an honest person, with many of the statements expressing "amazement and dismay" that her honesty and integrity was being called into question.
The disciplinary tribunal did not take the witness statements into consideration before its decision, which the appeal tribunal found would have changed their original outcome.
According to documents seen by Accountancy Age, the appeal said: "The character evidence makes it unlikely that a finding of dishonesty would be reached."
The appeal deemed the move not to take the statement into consideration was a "significant legal error".
It said the original ruling could not stand and that May was entitled to ask the disciplinary to take her character witness statements into consideration.
"There is nothing in the evidence...to suggest that her [May's] conduct would be viewed as dishonest by the ordinary standards of the profession...the emails, if inaccurate were not sent with any dishonest belief as to their contents," the appeal said.
The second charge, which the appeal upheld, concerned an email exchange between May and Tilley that May forwarded onto certain individuals.
It was argued by CIMA that May should not have forwarded the email on, as it was marked "private and confidential" and an exchange between just the two of them.
However, May's legal team's refuted the allegation claiming, among other defences, that May had no reason to treat Tilley's email as a private letter. May's team argued it was on CIMA-headed paper and the context of the exchange included references to the institute's reputational damage.
The appeal said in its judgement that by, "not respecting the confidentiality of Mr Tilley's letter, and distributing it without his prior knowledge or consent, she [May] was not acting in a straightforward or fair way towards him, although no question of dishonesty arises in respect of this matter".
A statement from the institute said: "CIMA is committed to upholding the highest ethical and professional standards of its 195,000 global members and students who are required to comply with the CIMA code of ethics and to adopt the fundamental principles.
"When they appear to have failed to do that CIMA is duty bound to investigate allegations of misconduct in order to maintain public confidence in management accountancy. In this case a finding of misconduct remains in relation to one of the charges brought.
"While there has been comment on the costs incurred, these arose upholding standards in which public confidence is essential."
CIMA's costs for the hearing were £161,070. May incurred costs of £41,054.
May said: "I am delighted that the disciplinary findings of dishonesty and lack of integrity against me have been quashed. The fact that all the original complaints had been quashed by the investigation committee and disciplinary committee vindicates my claim that I was just doing my job as a council member on behalf of the membership.
"It is my belief that this action was taken because I was challenging the leadership team and highlighting continuing failures to follow council procedures. I felt obliged to defend the charge, not only to clear my own name, but in order to ensure that council members were not cowed in their duties by threats of referral of unfounded charges."
This article is a summary of the appeal committee's decision paper
This article was amended on 7 March 2012
On the first Charge, the Disciplinary Committee found that the Executive Committee had not made a decision to circulate the paper to the Membership. I presented evidence to show that ExCo had no authority to make such a decision, that actually rested with me as the Chairman of MSC and as such this charge was based on a false premise. The DC had excluded that evidence. This charge had not formed part of the original complaint.
On the second Charge, the DC had found that this was a personal letter sent by Mr Tilley as part of a professional relationship. I explained that the Chief Executive had no authority to send such a letter to a Council Member. I had regarded its content as relevant to the risk, which involved the CEO, that I had flagged up to ExCo. Charles Tilley did not include this charge in his original complaint, it had materialised during the DC proceedings.
I trust that at its March meeting, CIMA Council will now decide to honour my claim for indemnity, which is provided for Council Members in the Byelaws.
Council also needs to address how its processes have allowed this case to be referred to Disciplinary in April 2010, on behalf of Council, without it even being informed. And how and why £200k (including £20k at Appeal) of Members' money has been expended on external legal fees to pursue an internal complaint, originated by the CEO. This compares to an average case cost of £6k.
Posted by: Margaret May, 06 Mar 2012 | 07:39
Audi aletram partem - does not seem to have been understood by CIMA.
Posted by: Greg Allen, 06 Mar 2012 | 13:16
How much money has been squandered by egotistical CIMA officials? They should be called to account. Hopefully, some members will table a resolution at the AGM and take the offficials to task.
Posted by: Prem Sikka, 07 Mar 2012 | 18:39
Will the CE of CIMA Charles Tilley now resign? What has Council been doing to have allowed to descend into a farce.
Posted by: Clifford Moggs, 07 Mar 2012 | 19:17
It does seem odd that spending of this magnitude was undertaken on an internal matter. For an insttiute that is about financial control, it reflects badly.
Posted by: Mike O'Neill ACMA, 07 Mar 2012 | 19:46
In many organisations such inept expenditure like this would be followed by the resignation of the CEO/Accountables.
Given that CIMA Exec choose to spend our members funds on this, CGMA etc, how do members regain representation of our interests?
Is it possible to table a motion of 'No Confidence' in the CIMA CEO Charles Tilley? How would one do that and how many signatures would it require. Would both ACMA's and FCMA's have a vote?
Posted by: Mr Ed, 14 Mar 2012 | 13:32
According to CIMA's own latest global salary survey, the average UK CIMA member earns £52,357; so Chapter Street has just spent the equivalent of more than three year's salary on this shining example of "upholding standards in which public confidence is essential". That's around £1.94 per head from our subs even before you take into account the time that's been wasted, or, far more worryingly, the principles it all exposes.
Can I have my money back, please?
Posted by: Adrian Rutter, 17 Mar 2012 | 15:17
To achieve the above , CIMA Should have quality staff right from bottom up, any complaints has to be thoroughly investigated and acknowledged by higher management rather than leave it to an inexperience staff.
Posted by: Subra, 27 Mar 2012 | 18:26
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