EQUITABLE LIFE MEMBERS

SOUTH WALES COUNTRY GROUP 

  


Harry White has set up an Equitable Life Group in South Wales.  Its main aim is to fight for compensation for the wronged Equitable policyholders. Contact: swcg@equitablelifemembers.org.uk

4 March 2003 - Letter from Harry White to Mr Philip Aylett Clerk to the Select Committee on Public Administration 

Dear Mr Aylett

Would you kindly pass the following communication to the Select Committee Chairman for consideration in the meeting with Ms Ann Abraham Parliamentary Ombudsman scheduled for Thursday 6th March 2003

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To: Mr Tony Wright MP Chairman Select Committee on Public Administration

From: Wales Equitable Members Regional Help Group

04 March 2003

Dear Mr Wright

This communication is from the Wales Equitable Members Regional Help Group

We would remind you of the demonstration at Westminster on 29th October by the combined Equitable Action Groups E7 requesting the Parliamentary Ombudsman to extend the date span of his Inquiry.This demonstration was supported by MPs from all parties.

The Wales Members Help Group had a presence at this demonstration and passed this message to the PM :- " DO YOUR DUTY EXTEND THE PERIOD OF YOUR INVESTIGATION NOW! IGNORE THE TREASURY PENROSE "DELAY & DISTRACT INQUIRY""

The demonstration coincided with the appointment of Ms Ann Abraham as Parliamentary Ombudsman and AT LAST we expected action. How wrong we were - instead, she has been as obdurate as her predecessor and despite the continued and increasing suffering of Equitable Members 4 months has passed since her appointment and she still continues to hide behind the Penrose Inquiry and states that she has no intention of extending her investigation to the early nineties until Penrose is published.

Equitable Members in Wales, in concert with the E7 Action Groups urge the Committee - to which the PM is accountable - to force an explanation and justification of the stance she has taken .This behaviour is seen as heartless and irresponsible with the continued deterioration of the Equitable with profits fund and since the demonstration in October last a cut of 30% in annuitantsí pensions with further cuts in the future a distinct possibility.

We would remind the Committee that the PM has failed to respond despite (a) the Treasury Select Committee in its 10th report of 2 years ago concluding that there was a prima facie case of maladministration dating back to 1993 (b) the concerned voices of many MPs and (c) referrals by over a third of all the MPs in Parliament.

We strongly believe that their has been serial Regulatory failure and this should have been urgently investigated by the Parliamentary Ombudsman on the closure of the Society - action is now seriously overdue. We have lost confidence in the Financial Regulators and we are now losing faith in the Watchdog of Public Administration. Citing that Penrose will provide an answer will not "wash ". Penrose may provide "lessons for the future" but it is not a public inquiry, has no power to place blame or award compensation and reports to the Treasury - a possible culpable party in regulatory failure. In contrast the PMís Office has powers which Penrose does not possess.

When you meet the Parliamentary Ombudsman on Thursday next we trust your questioning will take account of the sentiments outlined above and results in your Committee persuading the Parliamentary Ombudsman to change her mind and to face up to the responsibility of her Office.

Your sincerely

H M White

Co-ordinator

Wales Equitable Members Regional Help Group


Visitors at the South Wales Launch meeting 22 September 2002


Regarding demonstration on 29th October by combined Action groups E7 outside Parliament requesting Parliamentary Ombudsman to extend date span of his Inquiry On your behalf I wrote to all those Welsh MPs who had signed the early day motion and also Rhodri Morgan, First Minister, Welsh Assembly and my own MP to support our request to Parliamentary Ombudsman. The response from Labour MPs was zilch but the Plaid Cymru response was superb as was that of Liberals. The response from First Minister was pathetic and insulted our intelligence.

I felt that I should attend the demonstration and turned up with placard with following ;- MESSAGE FROM THE WALES REGIONAL ACTION GROUP FOR EQUITABLE LIFE VICTIMS - DO YOUR DUTY EXTEND THE PERIOD OF YOUR INVESTIGATION NOW! IGNORE THE TREASURY PENROSE "DELAY & DISTRACT INQUIRY

I was smothered by press photographers but did not appear in any newspaper.In the context of a different Equitable article, however, the photo was published in the Money Telegraph on 20 Nov

The Welsh representative Plaid & Liberal MPs were there and introduced themselves to me. There was a good turnout of MPs supporting the Action groups but Labour MPs were noticeable by their absence The was a good turnout of conservative MPs and the Action Groups were received by the Shadow finance ministers in Portcullis House after the photo-call demo when an Anniversary cake was presented to the Ombudsman. The Directors of Equitable did not support the action groups request of the Ombudsman to extend his Inquiry. Despite this the Ombudsman who was retiring a few days later had the arrogance to make a press announcementon the same day stating that he would not be changing his position.

Recently we have received the news of the savage cuts in Annuitants pensions which is a further devastating blow. This has fully justified the recent increased pressure by the action groups. If you havenít yet read them I recommend that you read on the EMAG website the recent scathing letters to The FSA directors and to the newly appointed Parliamentary Ombudsman. I have suggested to Paul Braithwaite, general secretary of EMAG that he writes to Parliamentary Finance Select Committee chairman in similar vein. He thinks this is a good idea so we should expect such a letter soon.

The action groups will also be writing to The Chairman of Equitable, Vanni Treves to request
the support of his Board in lobbying the Government in our claim for compensation due to serial regulatory failure , on behalf of all of their policyholders. They suggest you add your voices by individually writing to Vanni Treves and also your M P

Address for Vanni Treves

Vanni Treves  Chairman Equitable Life City Place House 55 Basinghall Street  London EC2V 5DR,

The address of your local MP can be found at your local library or from links on the ELMHG website.

 


18/10/02

Hello Everyone

As you know the action groups are staging a demonstration and media "photo shoot" on St Stephenís Green outside Parliament at 12pm o the 29th October. Iím afraid we donít have sufficient numbers at present in the South Wales group to organise chartered transport to London and anyone intending to attend would have to make their own way.

 

It may, in fact, provide more publicity if we could present an Anniversary letter and also possibly a cake for the Parliamentary Ombudsman to someone significant at the National Assembly, for example The First Minister or Leader of Plaid Cymru on the 29th at say midday, to synchronise with the London demo. -The local press might be interested enough to send a photographer..

 

Unfortunately our numbers are such that we would not be able to marshall a crowd. but we want at least 5 to be present and in the spirit of "spin" and to account for the small numbers we would claim to be the coordinating committee - partners could boost the numbers..

 

Because of our small numbers at present the situation is difficult but as coordinator of the Wales group I feel obliged to put forward any feasible suggestions to further our case against failure of the Regulators. In summary ,therefore, could you e-mail me in quick time with answers to the following

1 Are you considering attending the London demo on the 29th ?

2 Are you available to turn out at the Wales National Assembly on 29th as a " coordinating committee member! " if I can arrange something with the National Assembly ? If yes would you be alone or with your partner ?

An early answer would be appreciated so that I can assess the position ---don' t be embarrassed in replying NO 

Regards

Harry White Coordinator - South Wales ELM Regional Group


17 October 2002 Harry White says:

I am letting you know the basic content of letters I have written on behalf of the Wales ELM group in relation to the above subject ,obviously their are minor variations:-.
Letters have been sent to the 4 Plaid Cymru M Ps and the 3 Welsh Labour M P s who signed the Parliamentary early day motion on Equitable Life raised by Roy Beggs M P. Also to The First Minister National Assembly of Wales and the Leader of Plaid Cymru. I have also written to my M P and stated that although she failed to sign the early day motion that on this occasion she supports us  I hope you all wite to your M P in the same vein - we must keep up the pressure. Click for more details.

7 October 2002 Letter to Charles Thomson from Harry White


A launch meeting was held on Sunday 22 September 2002 

Report of Meeting on 22nd Sept 2002

Equitable members who gathered at the  the Holiday Inn North Cardiff on 22nd of Sept agreed to form a South Wales Regional group of ELM. Welcome to all who attended. All that attended are now fully aware of the Action groups and the wealth of information available and links to other action groups on the ELM website.

They agreed to:

 

1 Request via their M Pís that the Parliamentary Ombudsman issues his ďminiĒ report on the FSA and extends his Investigation back to 1988 without hiding behind Penrose

2 Engage in Sticker/poster campaign using ELM & EMAG stickers issued at meeting

3 Will be prepared to attend any public publicity campaign if arranged and when appropriate in the future

4 Agreed with proposal to sent open birthday greetings to Parliamentary Ombudsman via local media (see below)

5 Supported the sending of an e-mail to 3 Welsh MPís who signed the edm asking them if they would similarly send Birthday greetings to Parliamentary Ombudsman

 

Material sent to local media with hope of publication

 

South Wales Regional Group of the Equitable Life Members Help Group  send open Birthday Greeting to Parliamentary Ombudsman

 

Policyholders with the ill-fated Equitable Life  Assurance Society met at the Holiday Inn, North Cardiff on 22nd September for a meeting lasting three hours. As victims of the Equitable scandal they unanimously agreed to form a South Wales Regional Group of the Equitable Life Members HELP Group.

 

 Liz Kwantes, the driving force behind  the National Help Group and Bob Widdess, Chairman of the action group ELPHAG were extensively  questioned by the members present on the present state of affairs .with respect to Equitable Life. Paul Braithwaite, General Secretary of  the action group EMAG sent his apologies due to holidays. All three action groups work closely together in the interest of Equitable victims.

 

All present agreed to engage in a car sticker and poster campaign to .publicise the existence of the Action groups to other policyholders and with this and other future publicity activities to keep the  Equitable Affair in the public eye.

 

The South Wale Group now has its own Web page on the ELMHG website --www.equitablelifemembers.org.uk together with a contact email address swcg@equitablelifemembers.org.uk which together provide a communications link.

 

At this inaugural meeting it was decided to send the following open message to the Parliamentary Ombudsman:

ďThe South Wales victims of the of Equitable Life scandal associated with the Equitable Life Members Help Group wish to send an open First Birthday greeting to the Parliamentary Ombudsman relating to his letter to M Pís dated the 29th Oct 2001. This letter stated that he proposed to conduct a statutory investigation into the Financial Services Authorityís actions on behalf of the Treasury, covering the period 1 January to 8 December 2000.

These victims hope that next year they will not again be sending another UNHAPPY RETURNS OF THE YEAR greeting to the Parliamentary Ombudsman

With this greeting they also wish to tell the Ombudsman that they see no reason, whatsoever, for his delaying an extension of his investigation into members legitimate complaints  back to 1988 using Penrose as an excuse for delay. The terms of reference of Penrose are entirely different to the role and duty of the Ombudsman and victims should not have to wait for ever to receive a speedy investigation into their just complaints. Even without benefit of Penrose there is a plethora of legal opinions in the public domain many of which have been obtained at the expense of the dwindling victimís with profits fund as well as an authoritative academic opinion commissioned by the action groups.Ē


Handout for those Members  of Equitable Life who attend Meeting

held on 22nd Sept 2002

By Harry White - One of the many victims of the Equitable Scandal

 

(1) I called this meeting using local Radio & Press announcements to see if there is a wish to form a South Wales Country Group  of the Equitable Life members Help Group (ELM).

 

(2 ) I embarked on  this individual action, since someone has to make the first move, as a catalyst to get local members together in one place in order to :-

(a) ensure that as many local members were aware of the various Action Groups that exist and in particular of the Equitable Life Members Help Group which provides a superb information Web site.

This site gives links to all relevant articles in the National Newspapers, links showing the history of the unfolding saga, reference to legal opinions, Parliamentary, Treasury & Financial Services references, model letters for complaints to MPís, Financial Ombudsman, Parliamentary Ombudsman, Penrose Inquiry, etc. and links to the primary Action Groups EMAG & ELPHAG as well as sub groups with special interests..

 

(b) Urge the members present at the meeting to join the Action Groups EMAG, ELPHAG or both.

 

(c) Urge the members present to consider using car stickers and or posters - see examples provided. Vinyl stickers can be obtained from EMAG (Tel 07810 791245) or ELM & EMAG stickers can be downloaded from the ELM site (www.equitablelifemembers.org.uk) copy & pasted into own Word program and printed out.

 

(d) Gauge the local interest in the formation of a South Wales Country Group of ELM.

 

(3 ) Before the  meeting considers whether  to form a South Wales then it must consider what useful function would it provide.

 

 (a)  A number of ELM branches have been in existence formed throughout the UK , for some time . These appear. as far as I can ascertain, to have developed by word of mouth and/or by posters in libraries, etc and either take the form of local meetings or e-mail communications where members discuss their individual problems with a view to obtaining possible advice or mutual support. Recently, I think that a  number have embarked on car sticker and poster campaigns.

 

(b) Discussion about individual possible technical problems may be seen as one of the  useful functions for a South Wales Branch, if formed, If this is the case I would like a volunteer or volunteers to coordinate the  branch because Iím not the man for this sort of job.

 Personally, I feel that best advice or useful discussions between individuals with similar policies and problems may be found on the discussion boards to the ELM  website provides links because these would possibly provide a wider source of opinions on individual policy contract interpretations or procedural questions.

 

(d) To agree that due to Regulatory Failure the Treasury must provide Compensation

 In my opinion and that of the Action Groups the Equitable Management were incompetent but more importantly the successive Government Regulators - responsible to the Treasury - utterly failed Equitable Members by not preventing Management incompetence and ensuring that sound business management was followed and safe solvency levels maintained. The regulators should not have allowed Non Gar pension policyholders funds and also amazingly Life funds (e.g endowments) to be  included in the same with profits fund as Gar pension policies from the outset and further, should not have allowed the compounding of this  fundamentally disastrous and  unsound action by subsequently operating at dangerous solvency levels. Thus, it can be claimed that the Regulators were guilty of Maladministration and in consequence should compensate Equitable members for the losses suffered by the virtual collapse of their society.

 

The Parliamentary Ombudsman is the official challenger of the Regulator for Maladministration but because the Government set up the Penrose Inquiry the Ombudsman has limited his own inquiry to a time span which does not include the vital period from 1988 when Non Gar policies were first sold. Similarly the Treasury  Select Committee has suspended it own Inquiry until Penrose is published. EMAG see the Penrose Report as a Government tactic to diffuse members criticism of Regulatory failure, to move the scandal out of the media limelight and hope that members will lose heart in maintaining a fight for Government compensation for regulatory failure in the case of Equitable Life.

 

(d) To agree that the Treasury is the only source of significant compensation. 

 

(e) To agree that the Treasury will only act in the face of continued and vigorous action by members

Experience tells us  that Governments are notorious in not acknowledging any failure on their part particularly if expense is involved, therefore, any claim  for compensation, even if valid, will require a very hard fight before it is met. The Action Groups are doing there best in continuing this fight but they are meeting the usual bureaucratic resistance. For success they need as many members as possible and if necessary - in the manner of the age we live in- the ability to stage a public peaceful but significant public demonstration when thought necessary to achieve maximum media attention. THIS IS WHERE THE ELM COUNTRY GROUPS COULD BE USEFUL in attending demonstrations outside Westminster, etc or staging public presentation of petitions to local M Pís or in South Wales to the First Minister at the Assembly. THIS IN MY OPINION WOULD BE THE MOST USEFUL FUNCTION OF A SOUTH WALES ELM GROUP

INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A GROUP WE MUST INSIST THAT THE PARLIAMENTARY OMBUDSMAN MUST COMMENCE  HIS ENQUIRY COVERING VITAL PERIOD  FROM 1988  NOW !!  HE MUST NOT WAIT FOR COMPLETION OF THE PENROSE INQUIRY.                          


Equitable Life Members Help Group (ELM) http://www.equitablelifemembers.org.uk/ : ELM was initially set up by about eight people with EL policies living in the Maidenhead area to offer support, through a website, to Equitable victims. The idea was originally to offer a portal to those who could offer help and advice but it has developed into a superb information site for Equitable members and headed by Liz Kwantes is now regarded as an effective action group and media reference

 

Equitable Members' Action Group (EMAG) http://www.emag.org.uk/ : Formed by a group of Members in the London Area

 

Equitable Life Policy Holders' Action Group (ELPHAG)  http://www.elphag.co.uk/ : Formed by a group of members in the Bristol/ Gloucestershire area

 


            

NOTE If it is decided to form South Wales Country Group (s) then I feel that

 

2/3 volunteers are necessary to coordinate efforts. Although I may have been a successful catalyst in forming a group younger people with experience of media, at ease with e-mail communications, organisation of functions, local politics, etc. would be more suitable for the ensuring successful coordination although if required I would serve on the team.

(2) The expenses should be kept effectively at zero. Since telephone and postal costs can be

considerable communications should normally operate through the ELM website www.equitablelifemembers.org.uk/  on the page allocated to the South Wales Country Group.

For any questions ,comments or difficulties  e-mail swcg@equitablelifemembers.org.uk