Practice/Industry Group Overview
Accounting firms, law firms and their professionals trust Sutherland attorneys when faced with lawsuits and regulatory concerns.
Lawsuits and disciplinary actions aimed at accountants and attorneys present unique challenges and pressures. When targeted in high-stakes lawsuits and regulatory actions, accountants and attorneys look to at Sutherland for unbiased advice and experience in successful resolution of professional liability matters. We pride ourselves on providing cost-effective, top-quality service and legal advice. We have a strong track record in taking cases to trial and winning.
For more than 30 years, we have represented accounting firms in hundreds of matters, including more than 50 major cases in state and federal courts throughout the United States. Our team is well-versed in the range of challenges that can face accountants. We have defended accounting firms with respect to nearly every category of engagement, including audit and assurance, tax, actuarial, and consulting services, and in cases involving mortgage-backed securities, sub-prime lending, banking, oil and gas, health care, insurance, construction, manufacturing, distribution, retail, real estate limited partnerships, computer software, leasing and other industries.
Our team, from partners to paralegals, understands the accounting profession and its recurring issues and sensitivities. We train our team on the basics of financial statements, accounting rules, and the audit process, and we closely monitor developments in the accounting rules and the regulatory process.
We also represent law firms in a variety of disputes ranging from legal malpractice and fraud actions, to securities arbitrations, to claims under workers’ compensation statutes. Our work for law firms includes cases in state and federal courts in Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Hawaii, both individual and class actions, and arbitrations.
Trial experience. Our representation of accountants and lawyers is handled by a group of lawyers with extensive experience trying professional liability and other cases.
Full-service strength. When our clients’ needs require, we draw on the experience of other Sutherland attorneys in tax, financial services and complex commercial transactions.
Collaboration. We understand our clients’ businesses, leverage our capabilities and experience internally, and work cooperatively with our clients to minimize duplicative or time-consuming efforts.
Recognized leadership. Our attorneys are leaders in Georgia’s professional liability bar and regular speakers and contributors to ALI-CLE and ABA committees, seminars and publications regarding professional liability issues.
Speed. Because of our familiarity with the accounting and legal professions, the professional literature governing their practices and the substantive law applicable to these professions, our learning curve on new professional liability matters is minimal, enabling us to assess and defend cases efficiently and effectively.
Experience. We can avoid common pitfalls that would drag down our clients’ defense.
In-house training. We work to educate our own attorneys and staff on issues relevant to accountants’ and attorneys’ liability, so they aren’t learning on our clients’ time.
Nuts and Bolts
Sutherland provides comprehensive services to attorneys and accountants when they are faced with a range of issues:
- Malpractice and professional negligence claims
- Negligent misrepresentation and fraud claims
- Bankruptcy and other insolvency-related proceedings, investigations and litigation brought by trustees, receivers and creditors
- Securities fraud class actions
- SEC and Department of Justice investigations
- Other federal and state regulatory proceedings
- Internal investigations
- Jury trials, bench trials and arbitrations
- AICPA, PCAOB and state licensing board proceedings
- State and federal RICO actions
- State and federal regulatory proceedings and investigations, including False Claims Act and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
Sutherland understands the challenges facing accountants and attorneys in professional liability actions. We assess cases promptly and efficiently, help negotiate successful resolutions before litigation is filed when that is appropriate, and take cases to trial when the facts warrant.
After an audit client’s bankruptcy, Sutherland steps in to represent the accounting firm.
We represent a Big Four accounting firm in a number of negligent misrepresentation and professional negligence lawsuits arising out of the bankruptcy of the firm’s audit client, formerly one of the largest privately held mortgage originators in the United States.
Sutherland secures JNOV for Big Four client in $30 million homebuilding dispute.
We represented a Big Four accounting firm in a Florida lawsuit brought by the disappointed sellers of a homebuilding enterprise. Although the plaintiffs were seeking in excess of $30 million in damages, including alleged lost profits, the jury, after a two-and-a-half week trial, awarded only 5% of the out-of-pocket damages, effectively a defendant’s verdict in a pure comparative negligence state. In post-trial motions, the trial court granted our motion for JNOV, entering judgment in our client’s favor on all counts. The court found that the plaintiffs perpetrated a fraud on the court by taking conflicting positions under oath before the court and Internal Revenue Service on facts going to the core of the claims asserted in the lawsuit. The trial court’s judgment was affirmed on appeal.
Sutherland represents Big Four accounting firm in securities fraud class action.
A federal securities fraud class action was filed against a national homebuilding company, its officers and directors, and its outside auditors (a Big Four accounting firm), on behalf of a class of persons and entities that purchased or acquired the securities of the homebuilder over a three-year period. After briefing on the motions to dismiss was completed, the parties reached a very favorable settlement.