Clients: Knowing When to Walk Away

Charles E. Jones (Contributing Author)
Newsletter of the AICPA Private Companies Practice Section

Public accounting is a client service industry, and CPAs strive to meet client needs in fulfilling their professional duties. Claim experience from the AICPA Professional Liability Insurance Program has demonstrated that CPAs encountering litigation often permitted client interests to supersede their own standards of professional responsibility. Clients can create numerous issues for CPAs, such as failing to provide requested information, pay outstanding fees, or placing the CPA in the middle of business or personal disputes. CPAs are often reluctant to terminate a client relationship because doing so is perceived as poor customer service and ultimately results in a loss of business. When withdrawal may provide the best course of action, continuing to serve the client often increases the risk of experiencing a claim and may inflate potential damages. This article illustrates pitfalls that can arise in serving such clients and provides strategies to manage risk when withdrawal should be considered.