Professional Misconduct and Complaints
As the governing body of Ontario Chartered Professional Accountants, CPA Ontario is responsible for protecting the public interest by ensuring that its members, students and firms act in accordance with the expectations set out in its rules and regulations, which include adhering to high professional and ethical standards. Failure to observe standards in professional and non-professional interactions with the public can harm the reputation and value of the CPA designation and undermine public confidence in the profession.
Concerns about alleged misconduct should be reported through the complaints process as noted below.
How the complaints process works
CPA Ontario’s handing of complaints is critical to maintaining public trust. Review the steps below to learn more about how professional standards complaints feed into CPA Ontario’s Disciplinary Process. Details on the complaints process can also be found in Regulation 15-1.
Initial review and assessment
Determinations made without formal investigation
Initial review and assessment
CPA Ontario reviews every complaint received through its digital intake form involving the conduct of its members, students or firms.
As part of the complaint review process, we acknowledge receipt of all complaints within 24 hours and conduct an initial review of a complaint within 30 days of receiving sufficient supporting information from the complainant. As part of this process, the complainant (the individual making the complaint) will be provided with a unique file number.
In deciding how to respond to a complaint, we consider a number of factors, including whether the individual that is being complained about is a current or former CPA Ontario member, student or firm and whether there is imminent risk to the public.
Many complaints raise issues that are outside our jurisdiction. As part of our communications with the complainant, we may advise that they seek counsel from a legal professional.
Where the complaint involves a CPA Ontario member, student or firm, we correspond with the complainant and the respondent(s) (the party being complained about) to gather relevant facts, which are reviewed by the Director, Standards Enforcement or the Professional Conduct Committee (the "Committee").
Members, students or firms under review or investigation have the right to legal counsel at all stages of the complaints process. Information and responses provided by either the complainant or respondent as part of the initial review and assessment process may be shared with the other party.
We aim to conclude on complaints within an average of eight months, unless it is determined that a formal investigation is required or the matter is referred to the Discipline Committee.
Determinations made without formal investigation
Where the complaint involves non-complex matters, the Director, Standards Enforcement (the "Director") or Professional Conduct Committee may refer the matter elsewhere in CPA Ontario or take no further action. Alternatively, the Director may refer the matter to the Committee with a recommendation to admonish or provide guidance and advice to the respondent(s) and the Committee may, on the advice of the Director or independently, issue admonishment to or provide guidance and advice to the respondent(s).
Where the complaint involves complex matters requiring a formal investigation, the Director or Committee may request that an investigator be appointed to investigate the complaint.;
Decisions are communicated within 30 days of being made to both the complainant and the respondent.
Where the complaint is complex, the Professional Conduct Committee or the Director, Standards Enforcement may request that an investigator be appointed to obtain more detailed information and documents, including statements from individuals. The investigator will then prepare a report for the Committee. Usually, the respondent(s) (the party being complained about) to the complaint will be asked to meet with the Committee to answer direct questions based on the investigation findings.
We aim to conclude 85 per cent of formal investigations in an average of five months from the date the investigator is appointed.
If, following a formal investigation, a complaint contains information suggesting that the respondent(s) may have breached a rule in the CPA Code of Professional Conduct or Student Code of Conduct, as applicable, the Committee may refer the matter to the Discipline Committee. CPA Ontario has published Sanction Guidelines, which will inform the Committee in recommending sanction in a given case, and which may be taken into account by the Discipline and Appeal Committees in their decision-making.
Other possible outcomes following a formal investigation include: providing guidance or admonishment to the respondent(s); referral to the Registrar or elsewhere in CPA Ontario; or closure with no further action.
Complainants (the individual making the complaint) dissatisfied with a determination made by CPA Ontario to close a file without referral to the Discipline Committee may request a review by the independent Reviewer of Complaints (the "Reviewer"). Please note that this review is not an appeal or reconsideration of the decision of the Professional Conduct Committee or the Director, Standards Enforcement. It is a review of how the complaint was handled to ensure that various procedural requirements were followed when considering the complaint. The Reviewer cannot consider any documents or information that were not before the decision maker at the time the determination was made.
The Reviewer has the power to refer the matter to the Committee for reconsideration only if the Reviewer determines that:
- the procedures for the review and investigation (if applicable) of the complaint were not followed
- there is reason to believe that the decision maker had a personal interest in the determination
- consideration was not given to all of the available evidence at the time that the original determination was made
Requests must be made in writing by email within thirty days accompanied by a fee. This fee will be refunded if the matter is referred back to the Committee for reconsideration. Further information on the Reviewer and the process can be found in Regulation 15-2.
If a complainant remains dissatisfied following the Reviewer's determination, a subsequent review by the Public Accounting Reviewer of Complaints may be available if the following criteria are met:
- the complaint is with respect to a respondent who held a public accounting licence at the time of the events that gave rise to the complaint
- the complaint relates to the practice of public accounting
Similar rules, fees and timelines to the Independent Reviewer of Complaints process will apply. Details can be found in Regulation 17-3.
The role of the Professional Conduct Committee
The Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario Act, 2017, and the CPA Ontario By-law and Regulations charge the Professional Conduct Committee (the “Committee”) with the responsibility for administering the CPA Code of Professional Conduct (the “Code”). This includes the responsibility to review complaints and determine whether a breach of the Code may have taken place.
The Committee may consider information received from any source a complaint and review and investigate accordingly. The Committee may also delegate its authority to the Director, Standards Enforcement (the “Director”).
The Committee is comprised of experienced volunteer members of the profession and public representatives appointed by CPA Ontario Council.
The Committee is investigative, not adjudicative, and any conclusions reached by the Committee, including any guidance or admonishment provided to the respondent, are based on information obtained through the investigative process that has not been tested in a formal hearing.
The Code encompasses ethical principles and competency standards aimed at protecting the public and achieving orderly and courteous conduct within the profession. Compliance with the Code often involves the exercise of professional judgment on the part of a CPA and, accordingly, the Committee, which is charged with the administration of the Code, is given broad discretionary authority under the CPA Ontario By-law and Regulations.
What to do when a complaint is filed against you
As a member, student or firm of CPA Ontario, should you be the subject of a complaint, you are required to co-operate with CPA Ontario’s regulatory process. This requirement is imposed by Rule 104 of the CPA Code of Professional Conduct and Rule 402 of the Student Code of Conduct.
You must promptly reply in writing to any communication from CPA Ontario in which a written reply is specifically requested, including providing requested documentation.
Failure to co-operate in the complaints process could result in formal allegations of professional misconduct and a hearing before the Discipline Committee.
Throughout all stages of the complaints process, members, students or firms under review or investigation have the right to legal counsel. To ensure your privacy, you will be required to authorize CPA Ontario to correspond with your legal counsel.