Accountant who stole over $100k from employer found guilty of misconduct

A former chartered accountant has been found guilty of misconduct and breaching the profession’s code of ethics after she misappropriated $101,806 from her employer.

Ciara Marie Britton from Auckland was publicly censured this week after a disciplinary tribunal of the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants found against her at a hearing held in December.

It found Britton made unauthorised payments of around $52,800 from her unnamed employer and its related entities to her personal bank account and made a further $49,000 worth of unauthorised payments from her employer to third parties.

The misappropriations began shortly after Britton began working for the company in June 2019 and there was evidence some of the transactions were disguised in the company’s records.

“The misappropriations took place through numerous transactions over a period of more than nine months, until the former member was caught out.

“As the financial controller of the company, the former member was in a position of trust which was seriously abused. This was professional misconduct at the most serious end of the spectrum.”

The tribunal also noted that the accountant had been “lacking in candour” when it came to telling the institute why she was resigning as a member, using the excuse of a career break.

Her resignation came shortly after her employer discovered the misappropriations.

Had Britton still been a member of the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants when found guilty she would have been removed from its membership.

The tribunal noted the accountant had since reimbursed the company, had expressed remorse for her actions and apologised to her employer.

“However, the tribunal is concerned that during the hearing she referred to her conduct (sustained over nine months) as a lapse of judgement and a mistake – there appeared to be no insight that the conduct was inexcusable and a gross breach of trust.”

The tribunal also ordered that Britton pay costs of $12,173 and public notification of the decision.

Britton, who was a winner of the Fashions in the Field event at the 2019 Boxing Day races, sought name suppression on the grounds that it would have a disproportionate and highly prejudicial effect on certain family members.

But the tribunal found that the circumstances put forward by Britton as reasons for non-publication of her name and locality did not meet the threshold of exceptional circumstances and it declined suppression.

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