'Plumber' tribunal descends further into chaos

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The Independent Online

The debacle surrounding the tribunal of Paul "The Plumber" Davidson deepenedagain yesterday, as it emerged that one of the tribunal members and the head of the Financial Services Authority's Regulatory Decisions Committee had talked about the case before it began last Monday.

The debacle surrounding the tribunal of Paul "The Plumber" Davidson deepenedagain yesterday, as it emerged that one of the tribunal members and the head of the Financial Services Authority's Regulatory Decisions Committee had talked about the case before it began last Monday.

The case was bought to an abrupt halt last week, as it emerged that Terence Mowschenson QC, one of four members of the Financial Services & Markets Tribunal, had talked about the case with Christopher Fitzgerald, the chairman of the FSA's Regulatory Decisions Committee, during a chance meeting in the early hours of Tuesday.

Mr Fitzgerald was ultimately responsible for handing down the £750,000 fine to Mr Davidson for alleged market abuse relating to a stock market flotation, which he is now appealing against at the tribunal.

News of the late-night conversation was reported to the FSA's lawyers after Mr Fitzgerald mentioned it to a colleague in the regulator's enforcement division last week. The tribunal was then adjourned to decide whether the case had been prejudiced, and Mr Fitzgerald was forced by his employers to resign.

But correspondence yesterday revealed that Mr Fitzgerald and Mr Mowschenson, who are neighbours, had discussed the issue on previous occasions, in the period leading up to the hearing.

The news will further weaken the FSA's case that the hearing was not prejudiced. Mr Davidson's lawyers argue that Mr Mowschenson should have revealed the conversations before the hearing began.

Mr Mowschenson says he does not recall the nature of previous conversations, and insists he "never discussed any details of the case". In a further twist, it was revealed yesterday that Mr Mowschenson's and Mr Fitzgerald's recollections of the chance meeting on 15 June appear to be materially different.

A further hearing to decide whether the case has been prejudiced will be held on Monday.

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