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

Correspondence: 23/10/2003 - Letter from Paul Braithwaite to The Honourable Mr Justice Langley 23 October '03
p> Letter from Paul Braithwaite to The Honourable Mr Justice Langley 23 October '03

The Honourable Mr Justice Langley
Q B D Commercial Court
Royal Courts of Justice
London WC2A 2LL
42, Bartholomew Villas
Kentish Town
London NW5 2LL

23rd October, 2003

Your Honour,

In the matters of Equitable Life and Ernst & Young and 15 former directors:

I have attended your court 21 on behalf of EMAG (Equitable Members' Action Group) and all policyholders past and present in the Equitable Life on several different days, including last Friday. May I say how personally impressed I have been by your modest humour in court and the simple, comprehensible, common sense of your judgements.

I understand that you require all witness statements in both Equitable cases to be lodged with your court by 20th January, 2004, but that the cases will not commence before April 2005.

You will, I think, be sympathetic to the frustration that policyholders feel about having, after nearly three years since the closure of the Society, not gained much insight into what really happened within Equitable in the 1990s. Whilst Lord Penrose was meant to produce a published report more than a year ago, it has been subject to hurdles and repeated delays and may well yet be edited by the Treasury.

The very real threat to all of the 15 former directors of personal bankruptcy which could result from the multi-billion pound "grandstanding" claim against them by the Society will inevitable have led them to be ultra-cautious and circumspect in what they have told the Penrose Inquiry, which is a matter for regret but to be understood.

It is, of course, possible that an out of court settlement may be reached with E & Y and then the case against the directors subsequently be dropped before trial. There is, therefore, a risk in that eventuality that, to the relief of some parties, all the evidence prepared by the Society and the insights that the former directors provide are in danger of remaining secret. This outcome would compound the frustration of many of the million plus policyholders who are, EMAG suggests, entitled to know the truth.

I write, therefore, to request that you consider making an order that all of the witness statements must be made a matter of public record immediately after Jan 20th, 2004 - in the policyholders' interest.

EMAG anticipates that some of the 17 involved legal parties would be vehemently opposed and may make representations that it would be prejudicial in some way for you to make such an order. EMAG maintains that this matter is of great importance and the evidence should, if at all possible, be in the public domain.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Braithwaite
General secretary of EMAG
FYI, see EMAG's informative website at: www.emag.org.uk