Professional Liability Advocate

Professional Liability Advocate

Accountants M&A Alert: New AICPA Guidance on Transfer of Client Files

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If you are selling or acquiring an accounting practice, you need to read the AICPA’s new guidance “Transfer of Files and Return of Client Records in Sale, Transfer, Discontinuance or Acquisition of a Practice,” which clarifies the obligations of the selling and the acquiring parties and explains how to deal with clients that do not respond to the notification of the transaction.

Accounting firm mergers and acquisitions have been hot for quite some time, leading to a wealth of public information concerning the important “do’s and don’ts” in this arena. While most participants have been attentive to their professional and ethical responsibilities while pursuing these transactions, there has been a certain lack of uniformity in how some of these issues have been handled, leading to concern by some that there was not enough authoritative guidance in this area.

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Is This the End of Arbitration in Nursing Home Litigation?

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As anticipated, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has released new regulations addressing the use of arbitration agreements in nursing home admission agreements applicable to facilities that participate in Medicaid and Medicare programs. However, the scope has far exceeded what was expected. The proposed regulations only sought to ban mandatory arbitration agreements as a condition of admission. The actual regulations prohibit “pre-dispute” arbitration agreements instead.

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Deloitte’s $500 Million Sentence

We have assisted many accounting firms in the creation or revision of their client engagement letters. They very often question the need to include certain provisions intended to limit their liability to their clients and sometimes ask whether the provision is even enforceable. Whether the provision will be enforced is uncertain due to the very limited case law addressing liability-limiting provisions in accountants’ client engagement letters, and there could be variations in enforcement from state to state. Nevertheless, we regularly advise our clients to include the provisions, even if enforcement is uncertain, because the provision might just be accepted and never challenged, thereby serving its purpose, even if a court strikes it down after a legal challenge. Continue Reading

The Punishing Effect of Rule 11

Federal courts correct bad litigation behavior, eventually.

People take being sued personally, and lawsuits can take an emotional toll on defendants, whether as an individual or as a representative of an employer. Anger and frustration always lead to the same questions: Can we sanction them for lying? Can I get my fees (or my insurance deductible) back? Won’t the court do something?

Federal courts can and do sanction attorneys for lying, failing to investigate claims and “posturing” a case to get a settlement. But sanctions are reserved for the worst offenders, and it often takes multiple violations before attorneys’ fees, costs or other monetary fines are imposed. Continue Reading

What Attorneys Can Learn from History’s Largest Data Breach

468453132On April 3, 2016, the public learned that millions of client documents from the Panamanian law firm and corporate services provider Mossack Fonseca & Co. (MF) had made their way to an international organization, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), and that the information would be used to publish potentially damaging stories. In addition, authorities across the globe, from Japan to Switzerland to the United States, are reviewing the documents and investigating potential tax implications, regulatory violations and criminal activity.

It is estimated that since its inception in 1977, MF has incorporated 250,000 businesses, largely in offshore jurisdictions. MF serves a wide range of clients, including politicians, celebrities and corporations. Incorporating “anonymous” businesses is entirely legal. There is, however, a stigma attached to “shell companies,” and several of the public figures associated with these businesses have already been embarrassed by exposé-style articles. The ICIJ has promised that additional, highly compromising articles will be published. Continue Reading

Negative Online Reviews: The Best Defense

WebA recent Washington Post article examined the issue of patient privacy complaints after medical providers responded to negative Yelp® reviews about medical care. The issue of how a professional can (or should) respond to negative online reviews is not limited to physicians or medical facilities. While attorneys are not subject to HIPAA, they are all well aware that attorney-client communications are privileged and confidential and only the client can waive that privilege.

In 2013, Illinois attorney Betty Tsamis was reprimanded by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission for responding to a negative Avvo review by a former client in a manner that publicly revealed confidential client information. Similarly, a public reprimand was issued against a Georgia attorney, Margrett Skinner, after she responded to a negative review by discussing details of her representation of her client in a domestic relations matter.

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The Proof Is in the Password!

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Consider this scenario: A young couple entrusts you, an experienced real estate attorney, to assist them in the purchase of their first home. Days before closing, your unsecured email account gets hacked and your client receives an email, which to all appearances is from you, telling them to wire funds to a third-party account instead of bringing the cash to closing. You only find out about “your” email to your client after the transfer has been made and your clients’ savings, accumulated over many years, is gone. What exactly do you think you can say to your clients to make it better?

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Obamacare in the Courtroom: In the Matter of Double Recovery

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), a/k/a Obamacare, was drafted to make health care and health insurance more affordable and more available to more Americans as well as to relieve some of the burden on Medicaid. However, the ACA also may have an impact on personal injury litigation. In particular, this legislation may serve to reduce awards for the cost of future medical care, while preventing plaintiffs from obtaining a double recovery as they do often today, consisting of an award of the predicted costs of future care and the benefits of ongoing health insurance that is often available for that care. Continue Reading

Rise in Cyberattacks on Professional Services Firms

iStock_000074015155_LargeWilson Elser’s Cyber Incident Response Team has seen an alarming uptick in cyber-criminal activity targeted at professional services firms, particularly accounting firms. As described in more detail below, the criminal activity follows a very specific pattern. We take this opportunity to remind all professionals of the need to be wary and skeptical of what communications they receive electronically. Consider starting the New Year with training and education for yourself as well as your partners, staff and employees on cyber risk and how to best avoid an attack and mitigate any damages if an attack occurs. In the past three months, we have noticed a pattern of activity targeted at small to midsize professional services firms. Attackers attempt to gain access to computer systems containing sensitive financial information, which may result in a legal duty on the part of the professional to notify their clients that their confidential information was or may have been exposed. Continue Reading

Qualified Immunity and Deadly Car Chases: Is the Pendulum Heading the Other Way?

The past several years have seen a slew of high-profile excessive force cases against law enforcement officers, often highlighted by cell phone video. These cases have placed increasing pressure on local police departments, which continue to struggle with balancing the public interest in community safety against the individual rights of suspects on the street. At the highest level of the legal landscape, however, the United States Supreme Court recently issued a decision that arguably expands the qualified immunity defense, at least in certain kinds of deadly force cases. Continue Reading