Goldberg Segalla LLP

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Accountants

Through the turbulence of the recession and the upward tumult of the long bull market that’s followed, accountants and financial professionals have taken up a prominent place in the public eye. In part because of the involvement of accountants and accounting in high-profile trials and investigations, because of recent changes to federal and state tax laws and regulatory schemes, and other factors, accountants are making prominent appearances everywhere: in pop culture vehicles, in the op-ed pages of major newspapers — and, increasingly, in the crosshairs of the plaintiffs’ bar.

Goldberg Segalla’s Management and Professional Liability attorneys have defended and counseled accountants through decades of major changes in statutory and case law, market forces, litigation trends, and the scope and standards of accounting business operations. With a deep bench of respected trial attorneys drawing on decades of experience, our Management and Professional Liability team is the go-to practice for numerous Top 50 and super-regional accounting firms, and our attorneys are trusted counselors to some of the leading accountants and accounting firm executives in the business.

Defense in any Circumstance
As a top-choice professional liability defense team, we regularly represent auditors, tax preparers, valuation professionals, business consultants, and other practitioners in sensitive and high-stakes litigation, at trials, and in all forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Our record of successful defenses and favorable results rests on our extensive knowledge of the business of accounting, and our commitment to gaining an intimate understanding of each client’s operations, history, philosophy, and long-term goals. At the same time, we leverage outside resources and investigative experience to gain a parallel understanding of the plaintiff’s background and business, allowing us to master and mount a superior defense against each claim.

We have counseled and defended accountants and accounting firms in:

Lawsuits, brought by:

  • Acquirers or sellers of business entities
  • Bank and insurance regulators
  • Bankruptcy trustees
  • Banks and other lenders
  • Investors in securities class actions
Investigations, led by:

  • Bankruptcy trustees
  • Creditors’ committees
  • Department of Labor (DOL)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • Grand juries
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  • Professional licensing bodies
  • Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
  • Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB)
  • State and local government entities
Our professional liability defense experience covers matters involving:

  • Alleged errors and omissions
  • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) disciplinary proceedings
  • Audits — including failure to follow accounting standards in planning and performing audits, lack of cross-checks, and failures or errors that result in continuing fraud by a bookkeeper, CFO, manager/executive, or others
  • Breach of fiduciary duty
  • Charities and nonprofits — including failure to administer grants and gifts
  • Company trusts — including failure to administer a company’s trust properly, and issues related to partner theft of client monies
  • Conspiracy
  • Errors in consulting
  • Failure to advise a client of suspected fraud
  • Failure to audit financial statements properly
  • Failure to detect embezzlement
  • Failure to file tax returns timely and/or file for an extension
  • Flawed internal controls
  • Fraud relating to the provision of accounting services
  • Going concern opinions
  • Loss of independence
  • Malpractice claims related to incorrect bankruptcy filing
  • Misallocation of expenses
  • Misrepresentation of financial statements
  • Negligence
  • Poor tax advice or negligent preparation of tax advice (including failure to advise a client properly on the tax consequences of an estate)
  • Technology — including improper selection, installation, and implementation of accounting software
Risk Management and Operational Counsel
In addition to our frequent court appearances on behalf of accountants, we routinely counsel these professionals on matters affecting their day-to-day practice. As trial attorneys, we are all too familiar with the myriad ways that poor preparation and insufficient risk management measures can lead to costly results and settlements or otherwise jeopardize practices and reputations. We help accountants and firms adhere to professional standards and codes of ethics, including the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), the AICPA Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (GAAS), and the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants. But our counsel goes far beyond this, encompassing continuing education, client alerts on legal and regulatory developments, issue-spotting, as-needed risk-avoidance counsel, day-to-day operational advisement, and more.

Risk and Litigation Avoidance

Taking a proactive approach to risk management for all of our clients, we present continuing education on the Code of Ethics, as well as standard of care issues that often snare unwary practitioners. We regularly advise accountants and accounting firm executives on issues specific to the field that could lead to claims, including:

  • Accounting for tax liabilities
  • Balance sheet presentations
  • Billing issues
  • Communications with successor firms
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Discovery of client fraud and its aftermath
  • Disengagements and non-engagements
  • Employee defalcations
  • Going concern disclosures
  • Internal controls
  • Inventory valuations
  • Requests for comfort letters
  • Return orders and fee applications in bankruptcy cases and related matters
  • Revenue recognition
  • SEC disclosures and PCAOB Auditing Standards (AU) Section 561 disclosures
  • Unauthorized practice of law
  • Will and trust issues
Comprehensive Day-to-Day Business Counsel

With an intimate understanding of the business of accounting built on decades of defending top practitioners, we are also well equipped to offer counsel and other services related to business operational matters, including:

  • Contract and engagement/disengagement letter drafting
  • Employment matters, including employment discrimination claims, non-competition covenants, and employee handbooks
  • Guidance on electronic documentation (with an eye toward ever-mounting e-discovery demands)
  • Guidance on formulation of document retention policies
  • Internal governance matters
  • Navigating expanding scope of services
Subpoenas and Inquiries
Accounting professionals are frequently subjected to third-party subpoenas and other inquiries related to civil matters, federal and state grand juries, and administrative actions. We understand the impact that these events can have on business — and the potential pitfalls and exposures that might arise as a result. We frequently handle, defend against, and guide clients through such inquiries, subpoenas, and third-party investigations, dispatching each matter with sensitivity, foresight, discretion, and diplomacy. Our clients can trust that we will take every available measure to protect them from risks and exposures, mitigate business interruptions, preserve their confidence with clear and prompt communication, and work collaboratively and strategically to eliminate or minimize reputational impact.

The Language of Business
Accounting is aptly called “the language of business.” We speak your language.

Goldberg Segalla stands as a nationally recognized leader in the defense of accounting professionals. Jonathan S. Ziss, chair of the firm’s Management Professional Liability Practice Group, is a sought-after lecturer on CPA risk management and professional standards compliance and a frequent columnist on the same topics, and has been involved in several hundred matters involving accountant professional liability issues. Ronald S. Herzog, another partner in the group, has over 40 years of experience defending accountants and is a long-time faculty member of the American Law Institute (ALI) CLE Accountants' Liability Seminar.

The firm’s deep and ever-growing roster of attorneys who practice in this field includes a wide range of specialties, experiences, and skillsets, comprising leading publishers and speakers on accounting standards and professional liability litigation trends, veteran trial attorneys and long-time legal counselors to top accountants, and lawyers with professional backgrounds at Big Four auditing firms and other accounting and financial institutions. In addition, the firm’s collaborative culture allows us to draw on the resources and assistance of leading attorneys in fields like employment and labor, commercial litigation, e-discovery, cybersecurity and data privacy, and white collar crime and government investigations when issues in these areas impact or intersect with our accounting clients’ business.

The result is an unmatched combination of formidable defense, proactive risk management counsel, continuing education and analysis of legal and business trends, and the ability to navigate a wide range of inquiries and business-related matters for accountants and accounting firms on a local, regional, and national basis.

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  • 5.0/5.0 Review for Michael Rubin by a Partner on 05/28/15 in Civil Litigation

    Mike is an excellent attorney, a strong client advocate and worthy adversary.

    Mike is an excellent attorney, a strong client advocate and worthy adversary. Read less

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  • 5.0/5.0 Review for Marc W. Brown by a Judge on 08/13/13 in Appellate Practice

    Mr Brown served as a law clerk at the Appellate Division, Fourth Dept., one of New York's intermediate appellate courts while I was Presiding Justice of that Court. His work was outstanding.

    Mr Brown served as a law clerk at the Appellate Division, Fourth Dept., one of New York's intermediate appellate courts while I was Presiding Justice of that Court. His work was outstanding. Read less

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Diversity

Both within our own firm and across the wider business and legal communities, Goldberg Segalla’s commitment to diversity is strong, sincere, and a critical component of our firm’s mission and culture. Our philosophy has always been that we hire people who are excellent at what they do, and even better human beings. Period. We feel we would be doing a disservice to our firm and to our clients if we didn’t include contributions from every available resource.


We are extremely proud that our commitment has received regional and national recognition for the innovative programs we have developed and the results we have been able to achieve. The following is a sampling of the firm-wide or individual honors we have received for implementing initiatives that make a difference:


  • George B. Vashon Innovator Award, Minority Corporate Counsel Association
  • MCCA Firm Affiliate Network
  • Vault/MCCA Commitment to Diversity
  • Community Service Award, Defense Research Institute
  • Good Works Award, American Bar Association Section of Litigation
  • Outstanding Committee Chair, ABA Section of Litigation
  • Diversity Trailblazer Award, New York State Bar Association
  • Legal Service Award, Minority Bar Association of Western New York
  • Lawyer of the Year, Bar Association of Erie County
  • Legal Community Leader Award, National Federation for Just Communities of Western New York
  • Diversity Excellence Award, Buffalo Niagara Human Resource Association
  • Value Award for Diversity, Leadership Buffalo
  • Western New York Game Changers, Buffalo Spree magazine

What we are most proud of, though, is that our efforts have shown significant results and continue to make a lasting impact on the lives of many.

Leadership and Action

To put our philosophy and commitment into practice, we have a Diversity Task Force, which includes our managing partner, in place to conceptualize and implement diversity-focused programs as well as give diversity a voice in our decision-making at the highest level. The individuals on this task force share the firm’s strong commitment to increasing diversity, and they use their unique experiences and backgrounds to support and advance that goal. The team meets regularly to create programs, schedule events, establish diversity initiatives both inside and outside of the firm, set long-term goals, and develop the strategy to recruit and retain people from diverse backgrounds.


The chair of our Diversity Task Force, Joseph M. Hanna, has spearheaded numerous diversity initiatives in various organizations and outreach programs, serves on several diversity-related committees, and is a frequent author and speaker on diversity. Among other positions, he is co-chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) Young Lawyer Leadership Program, former chair of the association’s Minority Trial Lawyer Committee and its Special Committee on Human Rights, and former editor-in-chief of the ABA’s Minority Trial Lawyer; a 2014 fellow of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD); a past president of the Minority Bar Association of Western New York (MBAWNY) and the MBAWNY Foundation; and the Diversity Liaison for several committees at the 22,000-member DRI.


For more than a decade, Goldberg Segalla has proudly supported the ABA’s Judicial Internship Opportunity Program, which provides racial and ethnic minority law students, along with members of other groups underrepresented in the legal profession, opportunities to serve as an intern with a judge during the summer after their first or second year of law school. Joe Hanna — an alumni of the program himself — acts as a mentor and leader in the program, through which he has conducted more than 100 interviews for students across the country.

In 2017, Goldberg Segalla participated in the Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program, the New York City Bar Association’s flagship pipeline program for high school students. As a participating legal employer, we hosted high-achieving inner-city students for the summer and collaborate with the NYC Bar to provide them with additional programming before, during, and after the summer designed to help them prepare for a legal career.

Each summer, Goldberg Segalla proudly welcomes interns through a formal Diversity Clerkship Program that was conceived by Joe while he served as president of the MBAWNY. The program was developed in collaboration with the MBAWNY and the SUNY Buffalo Law School to provide opportunities for minority UB Law students to gain firsthand experience in the legal system. Since it was launched in 2011, the program has placed more than 100 students in clerkships in area courts as well as in several area law firms, with more judges and law firms asking to participate every day. It provides participants with an in-depth look at the legal process and the interaction between the bench and the bar that they would not otherwise get. At our firm, a dedicated team of partners monitors the work of these law clerks and ensures they obtain valuable experience to help develop important legal research, writing, case management, and client service skills critical to their long-term success. Our program earned the firm the Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s 2012 George B. Vashon Innovator Award.


We also have sponsored Success in the City, an annual diversity networking and mentoring event developed by Joe that brought together students, legal and business professionals, educators, nonprofits, and political leaders to make lasting partnerships. Many employment, business, and mentoring relationships resulted from this event. Past events have drawn more than 500 political and business leaders, legal professionals, and students. Success in the City has influenced the development of similar programs in Baltimore, Cleveland, Birmingham, Dallas, and elsewhere.


Our firm is committed to spreading the message throughout the broad legal and business communities that embracing diversity contributes to greater overall success. We conduct training sessions for in-house counsel at Fortune 500 corporations on increasing and promoting diversity. Our attorneys have authored articles and delivered presentations on diversity for various legal organizations, including DRI and the ABA, and our efforts and accomplishments in this area have been profiled in publications such as Law360, the New York State Bar Association’s State Bar News, Business First of Buffalo, the Buffalo Law Journal, and others.


In one example of our work to provide inspiration and raise awareness of diversity and women’s issues in the legal community, Caroline Berdzik, chair of our Employer and Labor Practice Group, spoke to Law360 for the publication’s “Female Powerbrokers” series. In the interview, Caroline discussed her career, the challenges of being a woman at a senior level at a law firm, the work-family life balance, and the importance of taking risks. She also offered guidance to female attorneys on moving their careers forward and advice to law firms on both increasing the number of women partners and retaining top female talent. Her longtime advocacy for women (at her previous firm, she served on the Women’s Business Development Committee and was a member of what became the national Women’s Presidents Organization) helped earn her a spot on the 2015 NJBIZ list of New Jersey’s Best 50 Women in Business.


Joe Hanna also was featured by Law360 in its “Minority Powerbrokers” series, in which he shared his perspective on breaking the glass ceiling in the legal industry, the challenges of being a lawyer of color at a senior level, how law firms can increase diversity in their partner ranks, and Goldberg Segalla’s core commitment to diversity.

Partnerships

Goldberg Segalla is proud to be a member of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association Firm Affiliate Network, which was created by the MCCA to assist and acknowledge law firms that are committed to advancing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.


We are also a member of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD), a national organization of leaders in law firms and corporate legal departments dedicated to creating a truly diverse legal profession. As noted earlier, Joe Hanna was a fellow of the LCLD in 2014. In this position, he played a critical role in organizing the first-ever New York City LCLD Fellows Roundtable event, and he was instrumental in establishing a mentorship program in Hartford for local diverse first-year law students.


We support the diversity efforts of numerous organizations, including:

  • American Bar Association
  • Asian American Bar Association of New York
  • Columbian Lawyers Association
  • Defense Research Institute
  • Federal Bar Association
  • Korean American Association of Greater New York
  • League of First Nations
  • Minority Bar Association of Western New York
  • National Bar Association
  • Native American Rights Fund
  • National Association of Asian American Professionals
  • National Congress of American Indians
  • New York State Bar Association
  • Seneca Free Trade Association
  • SUNY Buffalo Law School
  • Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York

Our outreach efforts led to the creation of a comprehensive database of more than 500 minority law organizations throughout the United States. Contact between these organizations takes place in anticipation of bringing CLE and legal programs together. This group of minority bar associations includes both local and national organizations, such as:

  • National Association of Women Lawyers
  • National Association of Muslim Lawyers
  • Hispanic National Bar Association
  • National Asian Pacific American Bar
  • Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles
  • South Asian Bar Association of Philadelphia
  • Vietnamese American Bar Association of North Carolina

A Talented and Diverse Team

Diversity is further evident within our firm through the many languages and dialects spoken by members of our team, including Albanian, Arabic, Croatian, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Malayalam, Mandarin, Marathi, Norwegian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Tamil, Thai, and Urdu.


Goldberg Segalla’s culture is one that values team-spiritedness, collegiality, and interpersonal harmony within our working community. We are a firm that believes in diversity in the workplace, and we are proud to offer a professional and positive work environment for each and every member of our team.


On these values, and on our commitment to diversity, we will never waver. We are proud of what we have accomplished thus far, but we also realize that this is a long-term mission. We will continue to innovate and to improve diversity in law and business — both within Goldberg Segalla and across the communities in which we live and work.

Diversity Matters — Join the Conversation

If you have questions regarding any of the firm’s diversity initiatives or would like to discuss ideas regarding increasing diversity in the legal profession, please contact Joe Hanna (716.566.5447; [email protected]) or another member of our Diversity Task Force:

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