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Smooth as silk

On the frontline: The man who exposed Sir Elton John's extravagant spending on flowers is now fighting in E&Y's corner

Lovers of free entertainment in London, especially those with an interest in all things financial, should pop along to the High Court in the next few weeks.

An expected six-month trial will take place as Equitable pursues its long-standing £2bn negligence claim against Ernst & Young.

Following years of rumour, counter-rumour and pre-trial bickering, the case has finally arrived in court.

It has been long-awaited in certain circles. Equitable versus E&Y may not rival the celebrated McLibel case for interest, but it will definitely provide some headlines of its own.

Taking centre stage will be Mark Hapgood, the lead QC for Ernst & Young. It will not, however, be the first time Hapgood has been in the legal limelight.

Widely regarded as one of the best commercial lawyers of the age, Hapgood featured in the famous trial of Sir Elton John five years ago when the pop star sued a former director of his management company.

So, it is thanks to Hapgood’s dogged questioning that the world knows that Sir Elton spent £30m, as you do, in a two-year period.

It was also revealed that the pop diva spent £293,000 on flowers alone. When Hapgood asked Sir Elton why he had spent so much, the singer simply told him: ‘I like flowers’.

The pop star ended up losing the case. This was the first time many people outside the legal profession would have heard of Hapgood, but those working inside the splendours of London’s Temple area would have known of his name long before.

A glance at his CV reveals that he took his law degree at Nottingham University. After serving his apprenticeship, Hapgood was called to the bar in 1979 and then appointed as Queen’s Counsel in 1994.

To emphasise his burgeoning reputation, in that year, he was the most junior member of the bar to ‘be appointed Silk’.

And since that time, he has sealed that reputation as one of the leading commercial QCs around largely due to his performances in court where he has demonstrated a keen intelligence.

He was identified in the prestigious Legal 500 list of 2003/04 as ‘Leading Silk in the areas of banking and finance, commercial litigation and professional negligence. It went onto say that it considered Hapgood to be ‘one of the very best banking silks, combining a formidable intellect with excellent court skills’.

Based at the Brick Court Chambers, Hapgood’s CV is also testament to such awards from his peers.

It shows that he was central to ‘three of the longest trials ever held in the commercial court’. These involved European banks and insurance companies including Skandia and Eagle Star.

If the testimonies are to be believed then Ernst & Young have employed the services of a top lawyer.

Who knows, he may finally bring an end to one of the City’s most high-profile current sagas.

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