The actions of the Big Six have delayed the disciplining of accountants by the Joint Disciplinary Scheme for months and sometimes years, the scheme’s executive director Chris Dickson said this week.
The merger of Coopers & Lybrand and Price Waterhouse will only make the situation worse, added Dickson.
The firms’ habit of applying to the courts for civil actions by the accountants’ watchdog to be scrapped or delayed has hampered the work of the JDS, said Dickson, who took over the running of the scheme at the end of last year.
He pointed to the attempt by Coopers & Lybrand to delay the investigation of the five audit partners involved in the collapse of the Maxwell empire, which was eventually defeated in the High Court, but delayed the probe for 18 months.
A JDS investigation into the collapse of BCCI will not take place before 2000, after Price Waterhouse and Ernst & Young won an indefinite stay of proceedings following an appeal to the House of Lords.
Dickson was speaking at the publication of the JDS 1997 accounts on Monday.
He said the JDS had come under fire for the investigation time spent on cases before they reach the tribunal.
He added its problems were compounded by the difficulty of finding Big Six accountants to conduct investigations because they were often ruled out by conflicts of interest.
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