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

Media Stories: 31/03/2006 - Mail Articles

Mail Articles

Mail on Sunday: 26th March, 2006

Jeff Prestridge, Financial Mail Personal Finance Editor


"TALKING about fat cat pay and mutuality, it is interesting to learn that Charles Thomson, chief executive of fragile Equitable Life, is standing for re-election to the board at the annual meeting on May 17.

Thomson has come under growing pressure to resign ever since he agreed, embarrassingly, last year to abandon the society's four-year pursuit of 15 former directors and former auditor Ernst & Young for their alleged roles in bringing the mutual to its knees in the late-Nineties.

In the process, Equitable racked up an astounding 45m legal bill.
Understandably, many of the 750,000 policyholders were less than impressed, given that they have ultimately picked up the tab through lower policy returns.

It is not the only blot on Thomson's copy book. During the court proceedings-against Ernst & Young, he admitted to 'largely writing' his own glowing reference for the job at Equitable, a position he jumped into in 2001 when the mutual was on the brink of meltdown.

And some dissidents question his commitment as he spends only three days a week at head office next to St Paul's Cathedral. For the rest of the time, Thomson, 57, is in Scotland with his partner, former Equitable employee Verity Coutts, who is nearly half his age, and their baby daughter. Others wonder whether he is worth the 1m a year he is paid by Equitable.

Policyholders will get a clearer idea of his management skills this week when the society publishes its preliminary results for 2005. They will have the opportunity to show their displeasure by voting against his re-election in May. Thomson is standing for re-election along with two non-executive directors while an independent candidate John Newman is also hoping to join the board.

Only three seats are available, so one of the four will not make it.

Newman, an international tax adviser, is deputy chairman of Equitable Members' Action Group and stood last year for election to the board, only to be roundly beaten.

Yet this time round, with Thomson's reputation in tatters and many policyholders disillusioned with the progress made under Thomson, Newman must stand a fighting chance of success.

As Paul Braithwaite, general secretary of EMAG, says: 'John Newman is a much more attractive alternative to the 1m-a-year waste of space who was shamed in court.'

Millionaire boss called to account in dumping row

Scottish Mail on Sunday:


AS the controversial millionaire boss of a beleaguered finance group, he has faced frequent calls for his resignation.

But Charles Thomson, chief executive of Equitable Life, is facing hostility closer to home - in a row with his neighbours.

For the past nine months, the 57-year-old finance chief has left a pile of old bathroom fittings outside the Ayrshire mansion he shares with his lover Verity Coutts, 29, and their baby.

But now fed-up Margaret Hossack, who owns two cottages attached to Mr Thomson's Victorian home near Ayr seafront, may take legal action over the eyesore on herdoorstep.

Last night, Miss Hossack told the Mail on Sunday: 'From the moment they moved in, life around here changed. I'm very much a live and let live type of person but friends keep telling me I'm an idiot to put up with this.

'Appealing to his sense of decency hasn't worked and any requests to remove the sanitary ware have fallen on deaf ears.

'Enough is enough and I am now considering legal action.' The debris, consisting of baths, sinks and toilets was left by workmen after renovation work at Morrison House, which Mr Thomson bought for about GBP1 million two years ago.

It has been left piled in a small courtyard onto which Miss Hossack's front door opens.

'All last summer our access and parking were blocked by their tradesmen, which I accepted - not that there was an apology for the inconvenience,' Miss Hossack said.

'I just can't understand why they bought a house with other properties attached to it as it seems they don't wantto live close beside others.

'Quite possibly he's got ulterior motives. He left a message on my mobile expressing an interest in buying me out. I believe he's trying to buy the flat at the back.

'He suggested in the message that if he didn't get total possession of all Morrison House properties he would be applying to the council to permanently separate them from his house.

' Now he has applied to erect a 2.4-metre wall between us, which in my opinion would look ridiculous.' Mr Thomson has faced controversy since taking over at Equitable Life in 2001. There were calls for his resignation after the mutual racked up a legal bill of GBP45 million in a failed attempt to sue 15 former directors and the group's auditors for GBP3.7 billion.

He also faced embarrassing headlines three years ago over his affair with Miss Coutts, his ex-secretary. He and Pamela, his wife of 35 years, are now divorcing.