January 04, 2016 Articles

AICPA Rules of Professional Conduct

Understanding your accounting expert's ethical standards can avoid risk for your client

by Dennis S. Medica

Whether you are engaging an expert or cross-examining one, it is critical to be aware of the professional guidance and ethical standards to which your expert witness must adhere. Failing to do so may result in unexpected challenges to your expert's qualifications or a missed opportunity to strike the opposing expert's testimony. Either way, you put your case at risk.

Consider the following when dealing with an expert witness:

  • What specific professional guidance and/or standards must the expert comply with when serving as an expert witness?

  • Has the expert complied with those standards?

These issues are particularly important when dealing with Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). In performing financial damage analysis and preparing related expert testimony, CPAs are required to comply with longstanding professional guidance and standards. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has promulgated standards that its members must follow in order to maintain the integrity of the profession and its members. CPAs performing litigation services must comply with (1) the general standards of the accounting profession contained in the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct (AICPA Code); (2) relevant standards established by state boards of accountancy; and (3) guidance in AICPA special reports, including AICPA Consulting Services Special Report 03-1: Litigation Services and Applicable Professional Standards (AICPA Special Report). You and your accounting expert should be fully aware of these standards.

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