We still need justice, say Equitable Life victims

Victims of one of Britain’s biggest financial scandals are ramping up their campaign for justice after receiving just a fraction of their money back.

Two decades on from the near-collapse of Equitable Life, customers who lost more than £4billion have been handed less than £1.4billion from a Government compensation scheme. 

Campaigners are also worried that miscalculations by officials managing the scheme mean many victims have received less than they should. 

More than a million customers were affected when the renowned pensions and annuities firm came to the brink of failure in 2000. Most savers are now at an advanced age and many are worried they will die before they get their money back. The Equitable Members Action Group (EMAG), which represents policyholders, is calling on the Government to reimburse victims in full. 

One of those who lost out is Alan Pratt, 90, from the West Midlands. He said: ‘We’ve waited 20 years for justice. 

‘We’re not asking for a handout, but the return of our own savings that the Government accepts we have lost because of its failures. We put money into our pension. This year, my wife of 65 years died. How much longer must we wait?’ 

Equitable Life was founded in 1762, and former customers included poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and abolitionist William Wilberforce. 

The firm closed in 2000 because it did not have the money to meet its promises. The business was sold off in chunks. Policies are now managed by firms including Prudential and Utmost Life and Pensions. 

The Parliamentary Ombudsman published a report in 2008, accusing Government departments and regulators of ‘maladministration’, and recommending that victims should be returned to the position they would have been in had it not occurred. 

The then chancellor, George Osborne, set aside just £1.5billion compensation, of which only £1.4billion has been distributed because £100million is owed to savers who have died. This is despite the Ombudsman’s report finding victims had lost £4.1billion. 

EMAG is holding an online rally to demand full repayment. More than 200 MPs on the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Justice for Equitable Life Policyholders are supporting it. 

Tory MP Bob Blackman, co-chairman of the APPG, said: ‘In the public’s perception, the Equitable Life scandal shows that pension savings are not safe.’ 

EMAG and the MPs also want a formal inquiry into the £1.4billion of payments from Osborne’s scheme as some complained they received less than expected.

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