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State Accountancy Board Stops Firm from Using Name of Deceased Founder

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By Michael Cohn
June 12, 2014

The Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy has prohibited an accounting firm from changing the name of one of its offices to include the name of the late co-founder and president.

Donna Stephens died in January 2013, and the management team at her firm, Bell & Company, had renamed the office in Conway, Ark., to Stephens, Bell & Company in her honor, according to a local news site, the Log Cabin Democrat.

However, when the firm filed a renewal application with the state accountancy board to officially change the name, the board turned down the request. One of the rules in the state board’s Professional Code of Conduct  requires any partner listed in the firm name to be living or to have been a partner of the company prior to passing.

“In our case, we did not have the pleasure of partnering with Donna prior to her passing and therefore we are prohibited from using her name,” said the firm.

The firm informed its clients in a letter that was posted online explaining its intentions and the reversal on the name change. “Although we are saddened by the ruling and had hoped under the circumstances the board would see the importance and benefit of her legacy and contribution, we are simply left with no choice but to comply with their ruling,” said the partners in the firm, Bonnie Steenis, Jennifer Bell and Richard Bell. “Let me assure you, this change in the firm name will in no way change our continued efforts to honor Donna in the level of service provided. The same team you know, building address, and phone numbers will remain the same. We simply are making this change to comply with the Arkansas State Board of Public Accountancy's ruling.”

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