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Barlow Lyde & Gilbert (BLG) and Farrer & Co have brought the effectiveness of an independent disciplinary body for accountants into question after successfully defending against its first attempted prosecution.
The firms are awaiting a determination on costs, which if successful would be a landmark achievement and jeopardise the future of the tribunal established to regulate accountants in the UK following the Enron collapse.
The Accountancy Investigation and Discipline Board (AIDB), part of the Financial Reporting Council, brought cases against PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and David Donnelly, the former finance director of bus manufacturer Mayflower Corporation. The cases stemmed from an investigation into the company's collapse in 2003. BLG represented PwC, while Farrers represented Donnelly at the AIDB tribunal, where charges against both were dismissed. The complaints related to PwC's 2002 audit and Donnelly's alleged failure to report accounting irregularities.
BLG head of professional liability and commercial litigation Julian Randall led the defence for PwC and instructed Hailsham Chambers head Michael Pooles QC for the tribunal.
Farrers disputes partner Will Twidale represented Donnelly and instructed 4 New Square junior barristers Ben Hubble and David Yates.
Twidale said: "The accountancy profession is very nervous of this regulator and lawyers are lining up. This result is a big blow to them.
"If we get costs awarded, against case law, that would be a major achievement."
Former Allen & Overy partner, solicitor-advocate and AIDB executive counsel Cameron Scott prosecuted the case. The use of expert witnesses involved in the initial Mayflower investigation was criticised in the tribunal's judgment.