In Missouri, certain communications between a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and the client are considered privileged. Section 326.322 of the Missouri Revised Statutes prohibits CPAs from voluntarily disclosing information communicated to the CPA by the client relating to and in connection with services rendered. The statute also prohibits a CPA from producing documents or providing deposition testimony concerning a client unless the client provides approval.
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It is not uncommon for professionals who are not a party to a lawsuit to be subpoenaed to provide deposition testimony in the case. As long as the testimony remains factual and does not go into the area of expert testimony, the professional is only entitled to the statutory witness fee for the time of the deposition. The deciding factor is whether the professional is being called as an expert or as a fact witness. If called to provide factual information the professional is aware of, then the only compensation that is allowed is the statutory witness fee (which is currently $25 a day plus mileage, see RSMo. 491.280).
This article will discuss how a professional, especially an accountant, should respond when receiving a subpoena to produce documents and/or appear for a deposition. Many professionals, especially those in the accounting field, have received a subpoena to produce documents and/or appear for a deposition in a lawsuit. It is critical the professional takes steps to comply with the subpoena or lodge a timely and appropriate objection.