Arrested at a political protest? Regulation 19 and the duty to notifyThe duty to notify CIMA following a conviction or sanction is in the Institute’s Charter, Byelaws, and Regulations and applies to CIMA members globally.
As the world faces increasing difficulties including the cost-of-living crisis and climate challenges, many feel the need to engage politically to have their voices heard.
For some, this can take the form of volunteering such as delivering leaflets to the public, canvasing public opinion on social issues, or even standing for public office. For others, it might be to engage in protests or acts of civil disobedience. Particularly with the latter, there is always a risk that participation in planned rallies or unorganised protests could lead to arrest and prosecution. Given the lack of guidance often available with unorganised or spontaneous protests, these risks can be heightened.
CIMA members are uniquely placed to have a significant impact on businesses of all sizes and, through them, society at large. To have this impact, it's important that the profession protects itself from conduct that can undermine trust in and erode the integrity of the profession.
The CIMA Code of Ethics requires that CIMA members comply with relevant laws and regulations and avoid any conduct that the accountant knows, or should know, might discredit the profession. So, what happens if a member is arrested in connection with his or her attendance at a political protest? In what circumstances would they need to inform the Institute, and what would happen if they did? Let's take a closer look at the laws of the Institute and find out.
Byelaw 1 and Regulation 19
When being politically active, it is important to be mindful of the risk that political engagement can give rise to legal difficulties. While political activism may take place out of work hours and away from the office, it can still have an impact on one's professional life. The Institute's reputation relies on the professional behaviour of its members and, in particular, avoiding actions that could be considered misconduct.
Under Byelaw 1 of the Institute's Royal Charter, Byelaws and Regulations, misconduct is defined as:
"(i) failure to comply with the Laws of the Institute; or (ii) conduct resulting in any conviction (or adverse finding by, or sanction or order of, or undertaking to, any tribunal or court or other body or authority) relevant to their membership or registration with the Institute, whether or not [they were] a Member or Registered Student at the time of the conduct in question."
To provide a mechanism for addressing potential misconduct, Regulation 19 includes the requirement that a member or registered student, wherever in the world they are located, notify the Institute if they either (a) receive a disciplinary sanction before any body or tribunal or (b) are found guilty of an offence by any court.
So, any member whose political activism runs the risk of an encounter with law enforcement should keep this in mind.
When should CIMA be notified?
When protesting, the chance of arrest does exist — it could be due to an act of civil disobedience or purely being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Further, where an individual is under investigation for suspected wrongdoing, such investigations can take some time. This leads to the question, when should a CIMA member notify the Institute?
Regulation 19 stipulates that the Institute should be notified, with relevant details of the sanction or conviction, within 30 days of being found guilty by a court or receiving a disciplinary sanction. Whilst there is no requirement to notify the Institute at the point of arrest or charge, keeping the Institute informed at an early stage assists our conduct teams in understanding the progress of the investigation.
It is very important not to neglect the duty to notify the Institute within the 30 days. Failure to notify can have a detrimental impact on the reputation of the professional, CIMA, and the profession itself. It can also mean that, if a professional conduct complaint were to proceed at the Institute on the basis of the conviction or sanction, the failure to notify could be treated as an aggravating factor at a Disciplinary Committee hearing. It could even be included in the complaint as a separate allegation altogether. Whereas, by notifying the Institute, this could be treated as mitigation in favour of the member.
There is a public interest in ensuring that members maintain the standards expected of them. Therefore, when a member is found guilty of an offence, particularly one connected to their practice or employment, there is a public interest in the Institute considering what action, if any, should be taken to address the issue. This is especially important, as such conduct, if undisclosed, could adversely affect the reputation of the Institute and the wider profession itself.
What happens next?
Once notified, CIMA will review the conviction or sanction, along with any supporting documentation, and obtain any further information required. A decision will then be taken as to whether to refer the issue to CIMA's Investigation Committee (IC). Various factors will be considered at this stage including, but not limited to, the severity of the conviction or sanction, the conduct associated with it, and whether the conduct is relevant to the individual's membership or registration with the Institute. Not every disclosure will automatically lead to disciplinary action. Each case will be considered on its own facts. Convictions that relate to an individual's role as a management accountant are far more likely to result in further action being considered.
Full details of the Institute's Disciplinary Procedures, including the powers available to the ICs, can be found in the Institute's Royal Charter, Byelaws and Regulations.
Members and students should, of course, not be deterred from doing good work in their communities and making a positive impact on society. Rather, it is important to remember that your association with your professional body does not end once the working day is over.
How do I make a declaration to CIMA?
To notify the Institute of a conviction, email firstname.lastname@example.org or, if you have any questions about the duty to notify, contact Professional Standards at email@example.com. You can also contact the CIMA Ethics Helpline, which can provide links to appropriate sections of the Code of Ethics and further guidance.
Guidance on Regulation 19 can be found on the CIMAGlobal website.
— Xose Lumor is the manager, Advocacy & Professional Ethics–Management Accounting at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, representing AICPA & CIMA, and is based in the UK. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Oliver Rowe at Oliver.Rowe@aicpa-cima.com.