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

Documents: 09/03/2001 - EMAG Meeting with Vanni Treves

9th March 2001 - Meeting with Equitable Chair Vanni Treves

Held at Equitable's Basinghall St. office.

Present: Vanni Treves (chairman ELAS), Alistair Dunbar (senior manager -public relations ELAS), Vincent Nolan (chairman EMAG), Paul Braithwaite (deputy chairman EMAG) and Colin Slater (EMAG member).

Agenda per VN's letter to VT, Feb 21st .

Transparency and disclosure of information

VN thanked VT for making requested data available but criticised its poor quality. In particularly the comparison of Halifax offer with alternatives, which was largely qualitative. VT said that action groups should be mindful that things they asked for should not be an unnecessary drain on the modest ELAS staff resources. He justified the comparison paper, saying it was a simple summary prepared for the wider membership. Both VN and PB commented that ELAS's membership is remarkably sophisticated. PB pointed out that liquidation has been and still is a live issue since raised by EPHAG with the FSA on Jan 5th and that this had not been covered. VT asked AD to seek out what analysis was available on that alternative.

VN emphasised the depth of members' emotions and the need for a better climate.

Capping negotiations

The Wednesday March 7th meeting with all action groups in Aylesbury was also criticised by VN for being unnecessarily long and starting from just one candidate solution - an evolution of the Bayliss Plan. PB had suggested ELAS withdraw the consultative Fact Sheet 7. AD said that it had been modified on the website ( no changes evident as at March 11th).

An outline capping proposal paper prepared by Colin Slater (with help from Jeremy Lever) was discussed. An earlier version on the same theme had been submitted to John Sclater in December. VT requested that AD distribute it to the key experts within ELAS prior to a meeting in w/c March 19th - to include Charles Thompson, Chris Headdon, Stuart Bayliss and Jeremy Lever - in the absence of Colin Slater who will be away on holiday.

VT conveyed good news on defining voting classes, which he had received that day from the Society's solicitors (Lovells). Apparently, brand new rules provide that it will now be possible for ELAS to establish in advance of any vote the classes acceptable to the High Court and, once agreed, they will be binding and not challengeable after the vote. Whilst there are technically 96 separate classes, Lovells will be working towards minimising the number to be put to the court.

PB proposed that consideration be given to proactive initiatives: It was suggested that ELAS consider offering everyone who has taken out a new with-profits policy post the Appeal Court (Jan 2000), if they felt they had been miss-sold, a refund in full plus modest interest as a gesture of goodwill (without prejudice). VT to investigate.

Possible litigation against former directors and advisers

The subject of possible litigation for compensation was discussed at length. EMAG confirmed its support for EPHAG's request for an independent legal audit, first communicated by letter to Chris Headdon on Feb 4th. VT expressed his real anxiety about huge prospective extra legal costs of prospectively several hundred thousand pounds to the Society. Notwithstanding, all four action groups are behind this request.

VT invited the submission of specific examples of "smoking guns" as a possible starting point. PB showed letters from Feb 2000 from ELAS containing mis-information but pointed out that all key evidence such as Board minutes and written advice from solicitors/auditors/merchant bankers are not available to members. He suggested that, since this was instigated by EPHAG, it should be co-ordinated by their barrister committee member Jack Denbin.

VT has a copy of Andrew Pike's extensive submission on this subject to the Treasury Select Committee. VT asked for the action groups to nominate three top independent solicitor firms names to him. He undertook to propose it at the earliest possible opportunity to the new Board.

Composition of the Board

AD confirmed that the Mem and Arts provides that there must be eight directors and that a quorum is four. VT expressed the view that every Board member must be both excellent and contribute specific expertise. On the issue of directors specifically representing members interests, VT said he had been "scarred" by his experience on several company pension scheme Boards. He insisted that every director should be worth their place on the Board in terms of their ability and the contribution they could make. PB pointed out the danger of appearing to replicate the composition of Sclater's discredited Board, despite much changed circumstances and the history of members feeling they have been ignored for far too long.

VT has agreed with The National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) that they will put forward to Julia Budd of Egon Zehnder the names of three or four recommended candidates for consideration.

The rules regarding the number of members needed to call an EGM were discussed. VT acknowledged that 10% (i.e. 45,000 members) was not satisfactory. The figure of 5,000 was discussed. VT expressed understandable concern that opportunist IFAs could abuse such a low figure for their own end, witness Whitechurch.

Nicholas Warren QC - review of House of Lords' decision

VT raised the question of the Nicholas Warren review which, in his opinion, is the most important thing happening at the moment. Warren is working on the brief now. The conclusions could have material bearing on the capping proposal VT has spoken to Nicholas Warren and told him that his Terms of Reference could be extended if necessary. As soon as Warren is ready VT will have an informal meeting with him and Jeremy Lever to discuss the preliminary findings. PB welcomed VT's supportive disposition and highlighted the contrast with Alan Nash's fierce resistance throughout the autumn to this Adrian Howard-Jones/Jeremy Lever initiative.

Regional roadshows

All bar Edinburgh has been oversubscribed. The expectation of demand was based on the last two AGMs attracting about 500 members. VT will try to refix extra dates, in particular London, asap.

Paul Braithwaite 12th March, 2001