The English ICA announced this week that it had taken what it said was tough disciplinary action against Tim Smith, the chartered accountant former MP who admitted taking cash for questions. Citing his longstanding work on behalf of the profession, it stopped short of expulsion. It then seemed surprised that the rest of the world thought that the former Accountancy Age columnist had been let off with little more than a dressing down.
For the record, the penalty imposed was a #1,000 fine, an order to pay #2,150 costs and a reprimand. In its own statement the institute said Smith had admitted misconduct by taking around #18,000 from Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed in return for lobbying on his behalf. The institute explained that #1,000 was the highest penalty it could impose because the events complained of took place before 1990 when its byelaws were changed to increase its powers to fine.
Tim Smith was no ordinary FCA. As a former institute council member, he sat on the Treasury-backed Financial Reporting Advisory Board and was parliamentary adviser to both the institute and Price Waterhouse. There can have been few cases in recent times when so eminent an accountant was seen so publicly to have fallen below the standards of integrity expected of the profession. No wonder the public finds it hard to understand why he remains a member of the institute at all.
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