FSA plans for higher legal costs as more rulings are challenged

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) expects to increase its external legal spend again next year after more than doubling its budget for external enforcement to £5m for the 2004-05 financial year.

A spokeswoman for the FSA said that the financial services regulator predicted that the costs of external legal consultants and QCs would jump even further next year, following a growing number of legal challenges to the FSA’s regulatory enforcement decisions.

The FSA, which is currently fighting three high-profile challenges to its rulings, increased its budget for external enforcement this financial year to £5m from £2.3m in 2003-04.

This follows a rise in the number of complaints being referred to the Financial Services and Markets Tribunal, the court of appeal for FSA enforcement decisions, which are up from 12 cases in 2002 to 24 so far this year.

The tribunal is hearing Legal & General’s (L&G) appeal against a £1.1m FSA fine for alleged mis-selling of endowment mortgages. It is the first time a major company has challenged the FSA at the tribunal.

Charles Flint QC, joint head of Blackstone Chambers, is representing L&G, while Hodge Malek QC of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square is acting for the FSA in the hearing, which is expected to be completed by the end of October.

Herbert Smith litigation partner Sonia Leydecker is advising Shell’s former chairman Sir Phillip Watts in another unprecedented challenge to the FSA, for “identifying and prejudicing” him when it fined Shell £17m in August for stock market abuse.

Meanwhile, the tribunal has postponed hearing an appeal by entrepreneur Paul ‘The Plumber’ Davidson against his £750,000 fine for market abuse while Davidson waits for a decision on his application for legal aid.