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: 05/06/2002 - EMAG Mail-shot Campaign Report
5th June 2002 - EMAG Mail-shot Campaign Report

The mailing produced the following responses (to 5th June):

  • Total Responses (mostly supporting petition to change Articles) 17,790
  • New EMAG memberships 5,081
  • EMAG contributions £100,094
  • Estimated EMAG membership after mail-shot 7,000

In a sense the mail-shot has been a great success, more than trebling our membership and bringing in £100,000. Less encouraging was the fact that 96% of Equitable policyholders did not respond at all and 12,709 people were prepared to support our petition, but not prepared to join EMAG or sent us £20.

The people here tonight have to face the fact that we are the honourable exception, a minority of a minority. Before going much further, we must ask ourselves - is 7,000 members enough?

  1. Any battle with the Govt. is going to be lengthy and we need to organise ourselves for the long haul. We cannot reasonably expect anyone to commit indefinitely a large proportion of his/her efforts on an unpaid basis, as some of us have done over the last 18/24 months.
  2. The key number of EMAG members is that which will both give us a good chance of winning votes at Equitable Life general meetings and support a worthwhile secretariat, with something left for communication, lobby and legal fees. I believe this key number to be about 15,000 or roughly twice what we have got.
  3. About 35,000 people vote Equitable meetings. There is a sizeable group (much in evidence last Monday) that supports Vanni Treves in the hope that he will recover their fortunes. To be sure of winning we need about 18,000 votes. With 15,000 members EMAG might be able to 2/3 (i.e. about 10,000) of our EMAG members to vote with us consistently, as an organised block. Anything less will not be ineffective.

  4. As regards a secretariat, what I have in mind is the sort of structure used by sporting associations and trade unions. The key person is the 'General Secretary', a paid official responsible not only for administration but also for carrying out policy. The right sort of person would reduce committee involvement to sustainable levels. Skilled administrators are not impossible to find. The Banks and the Services retire good people at very early ages. I guess the cost of this type of secretariat to be perhaps £50-75k p.a. For this type of approach we will need an annual sub (preferably by standing order) of the order of £10 for a 15,000 membership.

My instincts tell me to keep plugging away, but my professional judgement says we do not have sufficient support. 7,000 members is not enough to influence Equitable Life votes and ensure Vanni Treves pursues the regulators on our behalf or to finance an effective organisation.

Two lines of approach open to us:

  1. To try to double our membership by appealing to the 12,700 who have indicated limited support OR
  2. To decide the response has been inadequate and return the money subscribed. Allowing for the costs involved, we could return 95%.

If we wanted to go for the first course we must bear in mind that they have already taken a conscious decision NOT to join and the response may not be good. My view is that we should only go back to them if and when we have a workable strategy. I suggest we need to deal with three matters:

  1. It would be very beneficial to have our own counsel's opinion on the prospects of a claim against the regulators either by EMAG or by the Society itself. Vanni Treves tells us we will need to show 'bad faith', not just incompetence. Is he right? Would this be the case if we could get the matter out of the UK and into Europe? How long would it take and what would it cost?
  2. Probably more important is to review the prospects for a political solution. Pensions are very much on the agenda. The Government would like us to save more money for our own pensions, but their actions in taxing pension fund dividends and dodging the Equitable Life problem have had the opposite effect. If pressed they might change tack. There are professional lobbyists who could help devise a campaign. Who are our political friends and enemies? What are our strengths and weaknesses?
  3. It would certainly be interesting to approach the other Action Groups, with a view to amalgamation. Liz Kwantes has worked wonders with her group and ELPHAG has some good people. However, I must tell you that I have been working on amalgamating action groups for well over a year, initially with Vincent and more recently with Paul. It has been very slow going. Perhaps the 'success' of our mail-shot might be a catalyst for change.

If from this we can go back to the 12,700 prospective members with a positive strategy, we might stand a chance of persuading a large number of them to join the campaign.

To do this we need volunteers to serve on sub-committees to take on these three issues and come back with recommendations. It does not matter whether they can bring special skills to our group, simply that they are sensible people prepared to take on some of the work.

I would like to hear the view of EMAG members, do you think we should carry on or wind up. If you want us to carry on, are you prepared to help?

Colin Slater 05/06/02