06/12/2011 - Campaign update
EMAG's AGM on 17 November in Birmingham was well–attended and heard a rousing speech from Fabian Hamilton MP on why EMAG must not give up campaigning, and offering advice to EMAG members on how best to influence their MPs.
We are seeing a dramatic increase in dialogue between EMAG constituents and their MPs, and the many letters we've seen indicate that the Treasury is feeling the pressure. Many MPs have asked awkward questions in Parliament, again prompted by their constituents.
Freedom of Information Requests are also turning up the heat on the Treasury, which is obviously deeply embarrassed at being found out on the pathetic delivery of compensation so far — less than 1,000 people out of one million.
The Treasury is also on the rack over the plight of the pre–1992 with profits annuitants (WPAs). Faced with the evidence from independent actuary David Forfar, they appear unable to provide a rebuttal. We await their formal response to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) with interest.
We hear that our plight is a hot topic of conversation in the Parliamentary tearooms and there is a mood among MPs that ‘something must be done’. This is an improvement on the earlier belief in Treasury reassurance that Equitable's compensation has been ‘sorted’.
You can view an extract from MP Fabian Hamilton's speech here:
Fabian Hamilton MP at EMAG AGM November 2011
06/12/2011 - Regional EMAG member meetings
EMAG's regional team are holding a successful series of meetings for EMAG members around the UK. The meetings have attracted hundreds of delegates and campaigners. In the last few weeks meetings have taken place in Swindon, Orpington, Tunbridge Wells and Beaconsfield. Coming shortly are further meetings in Oxford, Norwich and many other locations.
26/09/2011 - David Forfar and the APPG meeting
On 14 September, after Prime Minister's questions, about 50 MPs and assistants attended the latest Equitable Life all–party group session. They heard from EMAG's Paul Weir and then from eminent independent actuary, David Forfar, who summarised his thorough, fact–based analysis of what has befallen the pre–1992 annuitants.
His conclusion is that the Treasury and Mark Hoban's presentation to MPs has been gravely misleading. These 10,000 unfortunates due to receive NIL compensation benefitted from insignificant over–bonussing, suffered EXACTLY the same consequences of maladministration and are deserving of exactly the same methodology as those supposedly receiving 100% of their relative losses for life, tax free.
MPs expressed their astonishment at the revelations and the Executive was asked to write to the Treasury minister responsible, Mark Hoban, who was present for the presentation, to demand his reaction to this new independent assessment.
26/09/2011 - EMAG at the LibDem Conference
EMAG members from the Midlands protested outside the LibDem Conference in Birmingham on 20 Sept, 2011
EMAG's general secretary Paul Braithwaite attended the Conference on EMAG's behalf for four days and lobbied MPs at every opportunity. On Tuesday 20 September, local EMAG members from the Midlands staged a protest, with Tee-shirts and banners, outside the Conference Centre. That afternoon, EMAG's Paul Weir and Paul Braithwaite ran two briefing sessions for the Lib Dems in the nearby Copthorne Hotel.
EMAG members from the Midlands protested outside the LibDem Conference in Birmingham on 20 Sept, 2011
01/09/2011 - All-Party MP group to meet 14 September
EMAG has organised for the all–party group of MPs (APPG) to meet with and ask questions of Mark Hoban, financial secretary to the Treasury. The Society's Chris Wiscarson will also be there.
01/09/2011 - EMAG at Lib Dem Conference
EMAG will be running briefing seminars for MPs at the Lib Dem Conference in Birmingham mid September.
05/07/2011 - The Treasury hasn't done its sums:
Bob Blackman MP, Tory joint-chair of the Equitable Life APPG addressed the following written Parliamentary question to Treasury minister Mark Hoban:
"To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Leeds North East of 24 January 2011, Official Report, column 115W, on Equitable Life Assurance Society: compensation, whether his Department or actuaries commissioned by his Department made any estimate of the cost of compensating Equitable Life policyholders who purchased with-profits annuities prior to 1 September 1992 on the same basis as the calculations made for those who purchased such annuities after 1 September 1992." 
The answer from Mark Hoban MP on 5 July:
"The parliamentary ombudsman recommended that the aim of the payment scheme should be
‘to put those people who suffered a relative loss back into the position that they would have been in had maladministration not occurred’.
The Government have accepted that those who invested in Equitable Life from September 1992 may have suffered relative loss as a result of maladministration.
That is on the basis that September 1992 was the earliest date by which the regulatory returns they may have used to inform their decision to invest would have been different if maladministration had not occurred, and therefore that they might have decided to invest their funds in another company.
This was not the case for with profit annuitants who invested prior to September 1992, and therefore no loss calculations have been done for these with profit annuitants on a similar basis".
Nothing if not a consistent stonewall. It really begs the question "WHY NOT?"
01/07/2011 - A few cheques finally sent out
Junior Treasury minister, Mark Hoban, announced on June 30 that some cheques were being despatched that day. Hollow laugh. He wasn't revealing just how few letters will be received this weekend by the million Equitable Life victims deemed eligible.
The letters will be dribbled out over the next 12 months. The shock to many of those annuitants supposedly eligible for 100% of their ‘relative losses’ is that when they do finally get a letter — sometime in the next year — it will confirm that their compensation for the period to 2009 will be paid, without interest, in five annual instalments and take until the year 2016.
Those deemed ineligible by the Treasury, for having contracted to start their WP pension before 1 September 1992, won't even get a letter...
And how are 945,000 recipients going to react when they see in black and white in a letter that though their recognised relative losses were £X,000, here's a cheque for just 22.4%?
More detail has now been revealed on the dedicated website, which contains a lot of unpleasant surprises, at: http://equitablelifepaymentscheme.independent.gov.uk/
Read the BBC News coverage.
EMAG fights on!
07/06/2011 - Sceptical press reception for the compensation scheme
The government didn't get all it's own way with its crowing. There were cynical headlines like The Times: "Treasury's payout plan derided as a con job" and the Daily Mail: "...more delays and disappointment...".
Read the press coverage.
07/06/2011 - Studying the scheme detail
You can find the full details of the compensation scheme at the Treasury's dedicated website.
There are 328 pages and it is interlinked with the ICELP report, which was published on January 26. EMAG has asked ex-EMAG director, retired solicitor Nicolas Bellord, to prepare an analysis of the scheme which we will publish for EMAG members. If you're a paid up member, do we have your current email address? If not, please notify email@example.com.
07/06/2011 - The all-party group meeting
There was a very successful APPG meeting in the Commons on May 18. About 20 MPs and 20 MP researchers heard from Honor Blackman, EMAG’s Paul Braithwaite and Paul Weir and two pre-1992 WPAs.
Did your MP attend and if not, why?
Read the official minutes.
Read EMAG's press release.
There are now 76 MPs who are members of the APPG. Is your's one?
18/05/2011 - The detail of the compensation scheme announced
On 16 May the Treasury finally published the full details of its compensation payment scheme — and it contains real shocks: 10,000 pre September–1992 with profits annuitants won't be receiving even a letter to tell them they're not eligible. EMAG knows that thousands of them do not realise. And the 37,000 with profits annuitants who are deemed eligible will not be receiving one lump sum this summer, as most expect, but they'll have compensation they are due to 2009 eked out in five small annual payments taking until 2016, if they survive that long. How shabby.
Read the Treasury's FAQ.
And the full 328 pages of FAQ, scheme detail and annexes.
Read EMAG's press release denouncing the scheme as yet more delays and disappointments.
31/03/2011 - EMAG met Mark Hoban
On 30 March John Newman, Paul Braithwaite and Colin Slater met minister Mark Hoban and his advisory team to discuss the Government's compensation scheme, due to be published ‘in the spring’. EMAG made several material and constructive suggestions for urgent needed changes to the methodology. We will be handing over our up-to-date file of current addresses to seek to minimise compensation letters going astray.
31/03/2011 - Equitable Life introduces a 12.5% terminal bonus for all members departing from 1 April, 2011
On 28 March the Society announced it will start to pay a terminal bonus of 12.5%, starting 1st April. Equitable Life anticipates that about 30,000 members will benefit in the first year by sharing an estimated uplift of circa £40m.
Read more: www.equitable.co.uk/media/21863/websiteqafinal280311.pdf
There was very extensive press coverage on 29th March, giving EMAG the opportunity to remind the media that we fight on!
See some of the press.
21/02/2011 - Reminder of MPs who pledged:
381 of our 650 current MPs signed EMAG 's Pledge in the General Election for fairness which read:
"I pledge to the voters of this constituency that if I am elected to Parliament at the next general election, I will support and vote for proper compensation for victims of the Equitable Life scandal and I will support and vote to set up a swift, simple, transparent and fair payment scheme — independent of government — as recommended by the Parliamentary Ombudsman."
Was your MP one of those who Pledged?
21/02/2011 - And for the lucky 37,000 WPAs?
Putting aside the frozen-out pre-1992 WPAs and addressing just the 37,000 other "lucky" WPAs who have been promised 100% of their "relative losses" for life: It's EMAG's impression that they are in for a nasty shock on two counts. First, their own idea of their loss far exceeds the likely result of Towers Watson's individual's calculation, which will offset the notional overpayment by Equitable Life of pensions throughout the 1990s. Second, the majority of recipients assume that they will receive a big cheque in about four months time. However, the Treasury has only promised to START making payments "in the summer". The money actually set aside for year one for this group is just £72m. So, at best, that makes for an average payment, tax free, in the coming year of only £1,946.
21/02/2011 - The pre-Sept 1992 WPA victims
For the avoidance of doubt, EMAG's number one priority this year is to educating and persuading MPs into adding this group of the oldest and frailest with profits annuitants to be treated in exactly the same way as their younger peers. EMAG has a series of initiatives which will be unleashed on behalf of this cruelled disadvantaged group before the summer.
21/02/2011 - What Mark Hoban told the House
Mark Hoban, the junior minister responsible for devising the profoundly unfair Equitable Life compensation scheme, grossly misled MPs in the Commons in the Committee stages debate on 10 November, 2010 in the example he gave in justifying why the pre-September 1992 with profits annuitants should receive nothing. Without making it clear, he chose an ultra extreme example that was totally a-typical of the pattern of those WPA's payments in the 1990s.
Hansard 10 November, 2010: Mark Hoban MP:
"If a with-profits annuitant had purchased their policy in 1989 and gained through that purchase an income of £7,200, by 1993 the policyholder would have been receiving an annuity of approximately £10,000 per annum. Part of that sum was a result of the bonuses that had been declared on the policy since commencement. It is recognised that Equitable Life was paying higher bonuses than it could afford during the late '80s and early 1990s. If Equitable Life had not been over-bonusing during that period, Towers Watson has calculated that the policyholder would have received only £9,500 per year. It is a consequence of the maladministration that the policyholder is receiving £500 more than he or she should have during that period.
"Equitable Life continued to overpay bonuses throughout most of the 1990s. As a result, by 2002 that policyholder was receiving £17,000 per annum. If the over-bonusing had not taken place, the policyholder would have received only £15,800, so he or she was still receiving more as a consequence of maladministration...
"The fact that with-profits annuitants who bought their annuities before 1 September 1992 have seen a reduction in the level of payments that they currently receive from their annuities is a result of poor investment market performance and the fact that their earlier annuity payments were artificially high."
This was simply misleading. EMAG is precluded from a legal challenge as protocol dictates parliamentary privilege — what is uttered in the Commons is inadmissible in the High Court. For this deceit, Mark Hoban deserves to be reshuffled out of the Treasury.
What Mark Hoban told the House
21/02/2011 - "Swift, Fair and Transparent"??
Mark Hoban wrote to the chairman of the Equitable Life all-party group, Bob Blackman MP, on 15 February in complacent and self-serving terms — claiming his scheme is "swift, fair and transparent". It is none of those things. Read and boil.
27/01/2011 - EMAG decides against a judicial review
The news that EMAG will not proceed with a judicial review against the Government was revealed at the EMAG AGM on 26 January. The board had submitted a very thorough pre-action protocol letter (PAP), served on the Treasury on 25 November, running to 82 paragraphs and prepared by EMAG’s long-time lawyers, Bindmans: Read the PAP.
The Treasury took until 22 December to provide their extensive rebuttal (with veiled threat at para 93).
EMAG directors prepared comments for senior Counsel, Dinah Rose QC and sought her advice, which indicated a low likelihood of success. EMAG challenged her with further arguments particularly on behalf of the disenfranchised pre-1992 Equitable annuitants. Final advice was received on 21 January which confirmed that the prospects were not good.
The EMAG board voted unanimously to drop the action and concentrate on a long-term regional-led political campaign. The board would like to assure the pre-1992 with profits annuitants that we went the extra mile on their behalf and thoroughly stress-tested the legal advice.
But this does NOT mean we are giving up! Natural justice is on our side and we will pursue every worthwhile avenue open to us.
18/01/2011 - The all-party group meeting 12 Jan
Bob Blackman (Tory MP, Harrow East) was in the chair and Stephen Lloyd (Lib Dem MP, Eastbourne — who is secretary) was alongside him. Unfortunately, Fabian Hamilton (Labour, Leeds NE and joint chair) is awaiting surgery and could not attend. Paul Braithwaite was there, as EMAG is the group’s administrators.
The room was too small for the 40 or so MPs and researchers who attended — a VERY good turnout for an APPG. Unfortunately, MPs were seemingly ‘in listening mode’ and virtually no penetrating questions were asked. Hence it was an update from Mark Hoban.
He conceded there is very considerable confusion about the September 1992 cut-off date: It is relevant to 10,000 older Equitable with profits annuitants who will currently receive nothing if they took their PENSION before 1st September 1992. However, many policyholders mistakenly believe that if they commenced their WP POLICY before that they are excluded — not so.
Also, policyholders’ idea of their personal losses is the diminution of their annuities post 2002. There’s little understanding that there’s a LARGE offset for estimated pension overpayments in the 1990s and Mark Hoban admitted that they will be in for an unpleasant surprise. EMAG asked that policyholders be sent very soon a detailed explanatory paper, since we are being deluged with questions and we are acting as the front line on the Treasury’s responsibility.
Brian Pomeroy, the chair of the independent Commission, gave an assurance that the Commission’s report would be submitted on time this month to the Treasury. Mark Hoban said it would be subsequently be published on the Treasury website.
Read the full official minutes and see if your MP attended.