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Supreme Court ends CPA solicitation ban.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Florida solicitation ban in ruling that states cannot prevent accountants from soliciting clients directly. The ban, enacted by the Florida State Board of Accountancy, prohibited CPAs from engaging in "direct, in-person, uninvited solicitation."(See also "Constitutionality of In-Person Solicitation," page 81.)

Scott Fane, the CPA who challenged the rule, argued it presented him with serious obstacles to moving his practice from New Jersey to Florida. Without face-to-face conversations, he argued, he would have difficulty explaining to potential clients the advantages of allowing him to provide their accounting services and to offer fees below the prevailing rate.

Fane sued the board in U.S. district court, alleging the antisolicitation rule violated the first and 14th amendments. The court ruled in his favor, as did the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th circuit. The case was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, in delivering an eight-to-one majority opinion, dismissed the board's argument that the ban was required to protect consumers from fraud and ensure CPAs' independence in delivering audit services. The Court also dismissed the board's argument that eases allowing states to ban attorney solicitations should be applied in this case.

Justice Kennedy said solicitation by CPAs posed none of the same angers as attorney solicitation. "The potential for overreaching is significantly greater when a lawyer, a professional trained in the art of persuasion, personally solicits an unsophisticated, injured or distressed layperson," Kennedy wrote. "The solicitation here poses none of the same dangers," he continued, noting "a CPA's training emphasizes independence and objectivity, not advocacy."

The board, Justice Kennedy concluded, failed to present a substantial governmental interest that would justify the infringement on Fane's right to free speech. (Fred H. Edenfield, v. Scott Fane, no. 91 C 2894)
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Title Annotation:Florida law in Edenfield v. Fane
Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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