The independent action group for current and ex Equitable Life policyholders, funded by contributions.

Equitable Members Action Group

Equitable Members Action Group Limited, a company limited by guarantee, number 5471535 registered in the UK

Committee Meeting: 05/08/2004 - AGM

5 August '04 - Minutes of the 4th Annual General Meeting of EMAG

Held at:   National Liberal Club, London
Committee members present:   the Committee - Paul Braithwaite (General Secretary), Chris Carnaghan, Alex Henney, Tom Lake, Betty McCann (Treasurer), Mike Neal and Colin Slater (Chairman) - and some 100 EMAG members. Apology for absence from committee member John Newman.

  1. Minutes of the previous AGM, and accounts for the year to 30th April 2004. Both were approved unanimously. One member expressed surprise at the low level of EMAG's subscription income, in relation to the very large number of current and former ELAS members. CS explained that very few ELAS members chose to support EMAG, but that those who did contributed an average of above 25 per year.

  2. Committee changes. CS announced the resignation of Stewart Simpson - confirmed by the latter from the floor - due to new professional commitments. He was thanked for his contribution to the committee's work. The other committee members, including John Newman (co-opted during the year) were re-appointed unanimously.

  3. Resolution on a possible change in EMAG's status. CS explained that the committee is considering the pros and cons of converting EMAG into a limited company, and proposed a resolution "to empower the committee to transfer EMAG's operation to a limited company, if it thinks fit". CS said that if the decision to convert were taken, the committee would explain the reasons to members. After some discussion the resolution was agreed unanimously.

  4. Discussion of proposed new objectives. CC explained that these were intended to replace the objectives already in place, and thereby to amplify the Objects of EMAG that form part of its Rules, neither of which currently mention the aim of obtaining compensation for ELAS victims. He emphasised that the Objects specifically exclude support of any litigation against ELAS.

    On the first new objective several members thought that it should make clearer that EMAG would seek to ensure that compensation is allocated even-handedly, rather than the possible interpretation that EMAG itself seeks solely to allocate compensation.

    On the second objective disquiet was voiced by members who felt that it might appear to indicate EMAG's desire to act as an alternative board for ELAS, and it was proposed that this objective be omitted. The recent bad blood between ELAS and EMAG was deplored by several members.

    On a show of hands it was agreed that the objectives should not be adopted in their presented form. CS said that the committee would take note of member comments in re-drafting them.

  5. Review of recent events. PB reported on the committee's recent meetings with Ruth Kelly, Treasury minister (who showed no sign of changing her stance on compensation) and with Ann Abraham, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (who has since agreed to re-open and extend her enquiry on ELAS).

    He also reported on other recent developments, including EMAG's petition to the European Parliament (to be submitted in September/October), and the charges of misconduct made by their respective professional bodies against Ernst & Young, ELAS's former auditors, and four actuaries (Barry Sherlock, Roy Ransom, Alan Nash and Chris Headdon) who were employed by ELAS during the '80s and '90s.

    He and other committee members answered many questions from the floor.

  6. Guest Speaker. PB introduced Dr Vincent Cable, MP and shadow chancellor for the Liberal Democrats, as a staunch ally of EMAG and a strong critic of the government. Dr Cable confirmed both in his review of the tortuous progress towards compensation, on which he was now moderately optimistic, and he noted the valuable work undertaken by EMAG to keep the issue of ELAS in front of MPs.

    Dr Cable said that three developments in particular gave him hope for compensation: the Penrose report, the PO's decision to re-open and extend her enquiry, and - in the wider context of pensions regulation - the FSA's incorrect statements to members of occupational pension schemes that their pensions were guaranteed.

    He said that despite the government's attempts to whip its MPs and stifle ELAS debate, the support for compensation was cross-party, and he himself had worked closely with Andrew Tyrie (shadow financial secretary for the Conservatives). Many backbenchers recognise that wrong has been done, and - as with the Barlow Clowes affairin 1989 - that the government should at least accept the moral obligation to compensate ELAS victims.

    Dr Cable answered many questions from the floor.

  7. Trapped Annuitants. MN introduced a discussion on the position of WP annuitants and the role of the action group Equitable Life Trapped Annuitants. He said that he had joined ELTA, which has recently embarked on legal action against ELAS, in order to protect his own position. He had offered to resign from EMAG's committee, but the other EMAG committee members had accepted that he could be a member of ELTA as long as this did not impinge on his work for EMAG or on its clear policy not to support any litigation against ELAS. It was restated that there is no formal relationship between EMAG and ELTA.

    There was a lively discussion, notably among the very many WP annuitants present.

  8. Any Other Business. One member thanked the committee for its efforts on behalf of members, to general applause. CS thanked all the members who had attended the AGM, especially on such a hot evening.

The meeting closed at 9.30 pm.

Chris Carnaghan
6th August, 2004

Chris Carnaghan and Paul Braithwaite
11th June, 2004