An Equitable Assessment of Rights and Wrongs
by Dr Michael Nassim
This article is an attempt to
address the various factors that together determine how clients and members of
the Equitable Life Assurance Society have been wronged, such that they have
suffered or may yet incur loss or damage precipitated by the GAR (Guaranteed
Annuity Rate) issue. It is now
clear that the GAR crisis was but one symptom of a deeper malaise.
Hence a prerequisite for the analytical assessment of wrongs is an effort
to establish what that underlying malady was.
Though interesting, current analyses are too narrowly legal or financial,
and so a wider perspective is now appropriate. Current analyses are also
premature, because the Penrose Report should provide a more searching and
definitive diagnosis than we have at present.
Even so, it may be wise to consider what the terms of reference for that
opinion eventually might be. For if the Report fails to establish a consensus,
or leaves room for significant residual dissatisfactions, we may need some
pre-existing criteria to which we can refer if we are to contend that it has
fallen short in any respect. This
objective is also important in view of the “unmasterly inactivity” on the
part of Government over the ongoing pensions and savings crisis.
The recent failure of the Parliamentary Ombudsman to act responsibly is
in this respect ominous; for details see the Equitable Members Action Group’s
sharp response1. It may therefore be necessary to maintain the
general momentum of inquiry should the findings of the Penrose Report be vetoed
by the Treasury, delayed, not released in full, or otherwise watered down.
Even so, pre-existing criteria will not be helpful unless they are also
realistic, or if there are no practical means of establishing them.
We shall return to this subject once the scope of this article has been
defined, and the more significant items have been discussed.