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FRC to use firms' revenues to calculate disciplinary fines

In less than two months, audit and non-audit clients, profitability per partner and market could be considerations when handing out disciplinary fines

07 Dec 2012 Accountancy Age

By Rachael Singh

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THE FRC'S disciplinary arm has been given the green light to look at firm revenues and profits per partner when handing out disciplinary sanctions with no upper limit, from next year.

The financial watchdog published a summary of the consultation responses, its reply to those responses and the updated Sanctions Guidance for Tribunals – due to take effect on 1 February.

In the guidance, factors such as profitability per partner, market share, number of audit and non-audit clients and their size, revenue, and profitability could be factors in deciding the level of fine to impose on a member firm.

There will also no longer be an upper limit on financial sanctions.

This action is in contrast to the summary of consultations which claim that revenue/profitability should not be considered in dishing out fines. However, in response the FRC said the tribunal must decide what level of sanction would give the necessary message of deterrence and it should also take into consideration the firm's ability to pay.

"Where revenue is not an appropriate indicator of financial means, a tribunal should seek an appropriate alternative measure. Other indicators of financial means include the level of profitability per partner, market share, the number of audit and non‐audit clients and the respective size of those clients, the number of principals, partners and registered individuals," the guidance states.

It was also suggested in the consultation that the engagement fee should be a starting point for deciding the level of sanction. However, the FRC disagreed because it was "unlikely to enhance public confidence in the profession".

Respondents included the Big Four, ACCA, ICAEW, ICAS, CIMA, CIPFA and BDO.

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