Honours legal pioneer for his ‘outstanding contribution to the accountancy profession’
The Association of International Accountants at a ceremony at BAFTA, 196 Picadilly, London, 9th October 2015, honoured Professor Mark Watson-Gandy for his ‘outstanding contribution to the accountancy profession.’
Mark was the first member of the legal profession to receive the accolade and only the third person to have been so recognised by the AIA, which represents accountants around the world.
Making the award, the AIA commented that the professor had over the years helped shape “many of the sets of rules that govern our profession today.”
Professor Mark Watson-Gandy was called to the Bar in 1990. At the time the Bar, for the first time, had opened the door to direct professional instruction by accountants – whereby accountants could bypass solicitors and instruct barristers direct for themselves and their clients. Mark responded to the change by building a practice acting for accountants and their clients, quickly finding a niche in the area of accountancy practice mergers and sales.
Through his work for accountants, Mark became the first lawyer to recognise and highlight that a distinct common law was developing in relation to the way accountants operated. At the time there were 11 institutes conferring the qualification of accountants each with their own disparate rules. Given that accountants could be members of more than one institute there was scope for accountants to be caught between one institute’s regulatory “frying pan” and another’s regulatory “fire”. The problem was not limited to the professional codes of conduct. The statutes affecting accountants differed in their definition of who actually was an “accountant” which meant depending on which membership one held, different laws applied. This could allow disparity of treatment for accountants on issues as diverse as rights of audience in tax tribunals to the rehabilitation of offenders.
By 1990 the law had long recognised the concept of a “law of solicitors” but the concept of a law of “accountants” (who then outnumbered solicitors ten to one) was met with less enthusiasm. His first review panned the book with the words “there is no such thing as a law of accountants” and dismissed his analysis of the case law that was evolving around the profession as “simply a law of exceptions.”
The institutes took a different stance and reviewed and edited the text. Indeed some of the delay in its publication of the first edition was prompted by two of the Institutes instituting measures to “correct” the anomalies in their rules the text had identified.
The title was later bought by Hammicks and renamed “Watson-Gandy on Accountants”.
Twelve years on, the book is the authoritative legal work on the subject. Again, with the last edition, each of the now ten regulatory bodies affecting the profession edited the draft. The Supreme Court Judge, Lord Neuberger wrote the foreword, describing the work as “invaluable.” The Times, remarking on the second edition’s launch, concluded: “on Accountants is recognised as the bible on the subject.”
He has written or amended many of the codes of conduct that govern the profession today and has acted at various times for three of the first tier and two of the second tier professional bodies that govern the profession in the UK. Indeed when DIFC decided to bring in laws regulating the admission to the profession of auditor, he was asked to draft them.
In 1998 Watson-Gandy was asked to join the newly created Institute of Certified Bookkeepers as one of its initial directors. In the years that followed the ICB grew to the largest bookkeeping body in the world, with over 200,000 members and students in over 103 countries. From 2000 to date, besides his practice at the Bar he has been the Institute’s Head of Professional Standards and was responsible for devising the professional conduct rules which govern their bookkeepers worldwide. The Institute is now one of the statutory supervisory bodies in England and Wales for money laundering and since 2014 is now an accredited Commonwealth organisation.