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Inappropriate Behaviour in Professional Firms

10 Jul 2018


Recent reports of inappropriate behaviour in professional firms is very disturbing and disappointing. We might ask - how did these professionals allow this to occur especially as many of the firms involved are likely to have the very policies and processes in place to avoid such situations. If they do not, they certainly should have, especially being advisers to businesses.



There are three key policies that should be adopted and followed to enforce appropriate behaviour in their firm:


  1. A key component in setting behaviour standards for any organisation or professional firm is the adoption of a Values Policy by which all behaviour will be measured. This can be further expressed in a Code of Conduct to re-enforce adherence to these values. The culture of any firm is the indicator of its values or how well its Code of Conduct and Values policy are being adhered to in practice. Such a policy flows into the contracts for the engagement of partners who undertake to proactively follow them. Partner performance reviews ensure this occurs.


  1. A further key Board level policy is a Staffing Policy that separates the responsibility of managing staff from that of setting the direction for the engagement of staff. It ensures that only staff who are prepared to adhere and follow the firm’s values are engaged and it also includes a staff grievance process plus the essential protection for whistle blowers.


  1. The overriding enforcement of such Board policies is undertaken by the Board Audit Committee whose duties are set out in a Board level policy designed to ensure it operates not primarily for the oversight of the financial audit but for adherence by the board and management to all of its policies including the Board level Values and Staffing Policies.


Firms that fail to see if their values are followed or how vital the Board Audit Committee’s review function is, run the risk that the firm will be hugely damaged if the values are ignored.


Eric Livingstone

10 July 2018

Tags: Business, New and Growing Businesses, Responsibilities, Risk

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