California Board of Accountancy
Certified Public Accountant and Firm Licensing Defense
The California Board of Accountancy (CBA) receives complaints about licensees from consumers, professional societies, law enforcement agencies, and other governmental agencies. In addition, the CBA also receives information regarding misconduct via mandatory self-reporting and regular licensee audits.
If you are a certified public accountant or a member of a licensed accounting firm facing a CBA investigation or disciplinary action, we have the experience and resources to provide expert representation.
Complaints and investigations
The following represent the most common allegations made against CPAs and accounting firms:
- Negligence and incompetence
- Fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation in the practice of public accountancy
- Failing to perform services in accordance with professional standards
- Criminal convictions
- Administrative actions by other governmental agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, Internal Revenue Service, and California Franchise Tax Board
- Administrative violations for failing to comply with license renewal requirements and unlicensed practice
When the CBA receives a complaint of unprofessional conduct, board staff may conduct an investigation. The CBA’s enforcement division employs both technical (investigative CPAs or ICPAs) and nontechnical (enforcement analysts) to perform the vast majority of its investigations. On occasion, the CBA will engage outside experts. For certain matters, especially those related to unlicensed practice, the CBA will engage the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation to assist in a case. In some instances, the investigation may also involve an in-person appearance at an informal hearing before the CBA’s enforcement advisory committee.
Once the investigation is complete, the board may close the matter, issue a citation and/or fine, or refer the case to a deputy attorney general for formal disciplinary action. The attorney general may file an accusation or, in the case of an applicant, a statement of issues, which initiates a formal administrative hearing process under the California Administrative Procedures Act.
Penalties imposed at the administrative hearing may include public reproval, costly administrative penalties, CBA cost recovery, multiyear probation with complex terms, license suspension, or license revocation.
While each situation is unique, it is generally wise to engage counsel before responding to the board’s investigator or a request for information. Answering questions, providing documents or evidence, or agreeing to other actions without counsel can be risky. As a certified public accountant or a licensed accounting firm, you have important statutory and constitutional rights as well as often burdensome duties. Immediately seeking advice from an attorney experienced with California Board of Accountancy actions helps to defend your reputation, your business, and your career.
How we can help
Our experienced attorneys will work closely with you to close an investigation without discipline or minimize the discipline that may eventually be imposed. In many cases, we can assist in negotiating an agreed resolution with the board’s counsel without a hearing. We can also aggressively defend you at a contested hearing.
If you are facing criminal prosecution, you should know and understand the consequences that a guilty or no contest plea and a conviction can have on your license. A conviction that results from an incident outside of your professional work that appears to have no correlation with your accounting practice may still have a significant impact on your license.
Whether you have been wrongfully accused of misconduct or have made an uncharacteristic mistake, our attorneys offer the experience, expertise, and resources to aggressively defend you before the board. We will listen, offer advice, and develop a plan to obtain the best result possible.
Enforcement Handbook for Licensees