The curious incident of the dog (and the Plumber) in the night time

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The Independent Online

The Financial Services Authority's enforcement process once again descended into farce yesterday, after the regulator was forced to suspend its tribunal case against Paul "The Plumber" Davidson, and demand the resignation of the chairman of its regulatory decisions committee, following accusations that he had accidentally prejudiced the hearing.

The Financial Services Authority's enforcement process once again descended into farce yesterday, after the regulator was forced to suspend its tribunal case against Paul "The Plumber" Davidson, and demand the resignation of the chairman of its regulatory decisions committee, following accusations that he had accidentally prejudiced the hearing.

Mr Davidson, who is appealing against a £750,000 fine from the FSA for alleged market abuse, began his case at the Financial Services & Markets Tribunal on Monday. It is one of the first FSA decisions to be challenged in the tribunal.

But after just four days of the hearing, it emerged that one of the tribunal's four members, Terence Mowschenson QC, had held a conversation with the chairman of the FSA's regulatory decisions committee, Christopher Fitzgerald, in the early hours of Tuesday morning. The pair crossed paths when Mr Fitzgerald caught sight of Mr Mowschenson walking his dogs past his house at half-past-midnight.

Mr Fitzgerald then came downstairs in his dressing gown and held a short conversation with Mr Mowschenson about the case.

As the person ultimately responsible for handing down Mr Davidson's original fine, Mr Fitzgerald's conversation with Mr Mowschenson was deemed to have potentially prejudiced the case.

News of the chance meeting emerged two days later after Mr Fitzgerald mentioned it to colleagues in the FSA's enforcement division, who immediately blew the whistle to the FSA's lawyers. After a private hearing on Thursday to question Mr Fitzgerald, the tribunal was suspended to give it time to consider how best to proceed.

Meanwhile, however, Mr Fitzgerald reluctantly tendered his resignation from the FSA's regulatory decisions committee yesterday. In a statement, he said: "My actions are in no way an attempt to influence the outcome of the case, but the regulatory process must be seen to be above reproach."

The FSA issued a statement yesterday insisting it took immediate steps to resolve the matter as soon as the news came to light.

Mr Davidson's newly appointed lawyers, led by Bitu Bhalla - who is best known for his defence of Tony Martin, the farmer that shot burglars who broke into his home - are now likely to file for "recusal", which will mean a new team will have to be appointed to the Tribunal.

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