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: 23/04/2003 - Letter to the FOS

20 April '03 - Letter from Paul Braithwaite of EMAG to John Todd at the Financial Ombudsman Service

FOS's collusive behaviour?

On June 26th, 2002 I wrote on EMAG's behalf to you. That letter included:

"EMAG is increasingly concerned at the ongoing foot-dragging that beleaguered policyholders and ex-policyholders in the Equitable Life have received from your organisation for many, many months now. We are aware that a large number of cases are in your "in tray". Indeed, many were there last year and some appeared to be put on hold….."

"EMAG is very concerned that all are treated fairly and that those with deeper pockets and more steely nerves are not recipients of more favourable settlements in return for secrecy. If the Society has agreed terms, these must be relevant to the unresolved case-load before you. Can you please reassure us that you have asked for and obtained from the Society the detailed terms of all settlements reached? It would be a gross injustice for the FOS to be denied the detail of these terms and it is beholden on you to pursue……. Our concern is that the Society's management, the FSA and the FOS currently have the appearance of acting as a "concert party" which may not be delivering an impartial and fair protection service to the Equitable's policyholders."

Ten months on and EMAG's anxieties expressed above remain and have been compounded. Every two months the FOS writes in platitudinous terms to stall the near 4,000 individual complainants. Rumour has it that the FOS found against the Society in a lead case pre-Christmas but many months have passed, presumably whilst you indulge ELAS the opportunity to commission carefully constructed responses by 'hired-gun' barristers.

This festering situation is intolerable and sullies the concept of an independent ombudsmen providing individual adjudication. It looks as if the FOS has been prevailed upon by its master, the FSA. The concept of a second 425 compromise agreement, used by the FOS to stall for months, was flawed.
EMAG is particularly concerned at the incomplete evaluation commissioned by ELAS from Moss and Carr QC, which does not even address the issue of negligent /fraudulent misrepresentation. Has the FOS sought its own counsel's opinion to balance against what is widely regarded as partisan?

What assurance can you provide of imminent resolutions, true independence and fairness to aggrieved policyholders - most of whom have seen NIL progress from the FOS in more than a year? Will the FOS insist that terms agreed with policyholders aligned with Irwin Mitchell and Class Law will be brought to the attention of all 80,000 possibly eligible ex policyholders?

Yours sincerely,

Paul Braithwaite
General secretary of EMAG