FSA seeks to block Watts appeal over Shell reserves fiasco

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The Financial Services Authority tried yesterday to prevent the disgraced chairman of Shell, Sir Philip Watts, from taking it to an independent tribunal in an effort to clear his name.

The Financial Services Authority tried yesterday to prevent the disgraced chairman of Shell, Sir Philip Watts, from taking it to an independent tribunal in an effort to clear his name.

The FSA, the City's main regulator, said it had asked the Financial Services and Markets Tribunal to rule on whether there was any case to answer before allowing a full-blown appeal to proceed.

Sir Philip, who was ousted from Shell in March following the scandal over the misreporting of reserves, contends that his position was prejudiced by an FSA notice published in August, explaining why it fined Shell £17m over the affair.

Although the FSA report did not refer to Sir Philip by name, he argues that it identified him in several ways but failed then to give him the right of reply before publication.

The FSA is now asking the tribunal to decide at a preliminary hearing whether this was the case. If the tribunal rules in the FSA's favour, there will be no basis for going ahead with the full appeal, at which Sir Philip intends to appear in public for the first time to defend his role in the affair.

The preliminary hearing is scheduled to take place towards the end of November and is expected to last two days. The appeal panel will comprise two members, one of whom will be the president of the Financial Services and Markets Tribunal, Stephen Oliver. The other will be one of the tribunal's nine chairmen. The FSA is being represented by Lord Grabiner QC and Javan Herberg.

Referring to Sir Philip's assertion that he was identified and prejudiced by the August notice, the FSA said: "We are confident that he was not and that the tribunal will agree with us. This would mean that the tribunal will have no jurisdiction to consider the other matters which Sir Philip has referred to the tribunal."

Sir Philip's lawyers, Herbert Smith, said he had no comment to make other than standing by his original claim that his position had been prejudiced. Although the FSA's inquiry into the company is now closed, it is still investigating the role of former and serving executives in the scandal, including Sir Philip.

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