By Richard Fletcher, Deputy City Editor
Last Updated: 12:53am BST 12/10/2006
Paul Davidson – or The Plumber as we have come to know him over the years – will now be able to recover the considerable legal costs he has run up during his three year battle with the Financial Services Authority, but few others are as lucky.
When the FSA was established in 2000, the Treasury feared that the prospect of being landed with extortionate legal costs, if it failed to prove its case, would deter the regulator from taking on the City's big guns.
It was hardly a vote of confidence in its new all-powerful regulator, but the Treasury pushed ahead anyway. It ruled that even if they won, only those who could prove that the FSA had acted recklessly or unreasonably could recover the costs of taking an appeal to the Financial Services and Markets Tribunal.
The result has been little short of perverse, with individuals forced to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on appeals. Take the case of Ravi Manchanda who spent 18 months battling to clear his name after being judged "unfit and improper" by the regulator.
The FSA had barred Mr Manchanda from buying a mortgage broker in 2004 because he had once been a director of a firm at the centre of a Serious Fraud Office probe.
No complaint of professional misconduct had ever been made, no civil proceedings brought and while individuals are expected to stand trial next year, Mr Manchanda has never been interviewed by the SFO, let alone arrested or charged.
The tribunal overruled the FSA and Mr Manchanda has cleared his name. But he has been unable to recover his £200,000 costs and has been forced to sell his house to pay his legal fees. It doesn't feel much like justice to me.
The Treasury and the FSA need to review the rules urgently.
What delicious irony that two former competition commissioners in Brussels are on hand to advise Aer Lingus in its takeover fight with Ryanair's Michael O'Leary.
The Irish motormouth's view of European Commission bureaucrats is well known: "communists" and "bad guys" working in "an evil empire".
Luckily, everyone in Brussels is far too professional to allow his opinion of their institution to cloud their judgment. And former commissioners Mario Monti and Karel van Miert, who now advise Aer Lingus's advisers, Goldman Sachs, are far too professional to delight in helping to undermine Ryanair's bid.
On Tuesday a pension fund linked to Aer Lingus pilots bought 2pc of the airline. Obviously, this was just a sound investment decision and has nothing to do with fears that the trades union-hating O'Leary would impose radical new working practices at Aer Lingus.
I'm sure that opposition to the takeover from Bertie Ahern's Dublin government is based purely on commercial objections, and not remotely coloured by claims he has turned Ireland into "Bertie's Blunderland".
And I expect any submissions to Brussels from the "bunch of halfwits" at the Air Transport Users Council, or from any of Europe's politicians whom O'Leary regards as "loonies", to be balanced and objective.
Yes, this takeover will be judged on its free market merits, and have nothing to do with personalities or politics.
Not many FTSE 100 chief executives can be described as charismatic. But that is exactly how Michael Burke introduced Justin King, chief executive of J Sainsbury, at the IGD conference on Tuesday, joking that these days Mr King was on the telly more often than he was.
A jacketless Mr King lived up to his billing: bouncing from one side of the stage to the other as he delivered his unscripted speech to suppliers and rivals.
Mr King was on just as good form yesterday as he updated investors on current trading, announcing the seventh consecutive quarter of like-for-like sales growth.
City analysts were certainly impressed, upgrading profit forecasts, although the shares slipped having had a good run in the days leading up to the update.
It is easy to underestimate Mr King's achievements at Sainsbury's. When he arrived in March 2004 the company was on its knees.
After years in Tesco's firing line, management – in the stores and at head office – were shell-shocked and had lost confidence in chief executive Sir Peter Davis. You could almost hear a sigh of collective relief at Sainsbury's Holborn headquarters when he departed.
Mr King has certainly restored pride at Sainsbury's. The devotion of his staff is almost cult like. If he ever gets bored of retailing, Mr King should try his hand as a TV preacher.
But it wasn't just staff morale that needed fixing. With management focused on systems and costs, Sainsbury's had forgotten about retailing basics. The shelves were often empty and the pricing of key items was wrong. Mr King has managed to fix both – but at a cost.
To be fair he has always talked about a sales-led recovery but the fact is that even after yesterday's upgrades, the most bullish analysts expect the retailer to make just £410m pre-tax profit this year, a lot less than the £667m that Sainsbury's made the year before Mr King arrived.
Having won back shoppers and staff, the challenge now for Mr King is to restore profits.