Equitable Life Injustice - The fight goes on
The mistreated Equitable Life policy holders, under the banner of EMAG (Equitable Members Action Group), organised a rally on Wednesday 24th October at Westminster. The rally was staged in order that UK parliamentarians could meet some of the members of the public who have been so cruelly and unjustly treated when the failure of the Equitable Life Assurance Company was not prevented because of the "catastrophic failure" of the government regulator, the Financial Services Authority. Fabian was involved as the co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Justice for Equitable Policyholders. Those attending the rally sported red, blue and yellow T-shirts to draw attention to their lobby of Westminster and bring their grievances once more to the attention of the public. Fabian has campaigned continuously on behalf of the Equitable Life policy holders.
Equitable Life collapsed in 2000 when it was no longer able to afford to keep its promises to policyholders. This financial weakness was something that should have been picked up by the government appointed regulator of the insurance services industry. Before its collapse, the company had 1.5 million policy holders many of whom were saving with company for a retirement annuity as part of their personal pension. The collapse of the company caused untold financial hardship with pensions payments being stopped and with people seeing their pension savings evaporate. Full details of the Equitable Life saga can be found on the BBC web site - Click here
A long political campaign led in 2010 to a Bill before Parliament that provided 100% compensation to those pensioners whose annuities started to be paid after 1st September 1992. Those whose annuities were taken earlier (even including policyholders whose start date was 31st August 1992) and those savers who have not started their annuity have lost all their invested money. Although the debacle should have been prevented by the regulator, the Financial Services Authority, successive governments have not been willing to shoulder the £5 billion cost of full compensation.
The rally coincided with the Annual General Meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Equitable Life Policy holders. Fabian was re-elected as co-chair along with Bob Blackman, the Conservative MP for Harrow East.
Officers of EMAG went to see Savid Javid MP, recently appointed Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the day after the rally with the argument that it would only cost an additional £60 Million for all the pre 1st September 1992 annuity holders to be given compensation. This would be natural justice. They are all now aged 85 or over and, indeed, the average age of those attending the rally was 83 years. Sadly something like 15 of these early annuity holders die as each day passes. The sum of money involved is well within the £100 Million contingency budget for the already-agreed compensation scheme. The real block to justice is within the Treasury and in the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt. Hon. George Osborne MP.
Fabian has consistently lobbied for proper government compensation for all affected policyholders and has initiated a parliamentary debate on the issue in June 2009, when Labour was still in office. Even the existing compensation scheme is not working quickly as agreed payments are only being paid over a 5 year period. There are some 1800 civil servants working with the company ATOS to administer the scheme and it seems unjust to Fabian that, given the commitment that the government has made to the compensation scheme already agreed, it is a parsimonious attitude to withhold compensation from the pre 1st September 1992 annuity holders. Fabian also tabled an amendment to the 2010 Equitable Life (Payments) Act on 10th November 2010 to try and include this vulnerable group.
Fabian with Honor Blackman at the rally
One well known campaigner for Equitable Life compensation is the well known actress Honor Blackman (former Bond Girl 'Pussy Galore' in the film 'Goldfinger') who Fabian has met on two occasions, including most recently, the lobby on the 24th September 2012.
Fabian has pledged to continue his struggle to secure compensation for all policyholders and will do whatever he can to keep the issue in the headlines and put pressure on the politicians controlling the Treasury to find the compensation that justice dictates should be offered to the Equitable Life victims.