TTF Blog: 18 January 2021

Further inequity for Equitable Life victims after two decades of scandal

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/34/enacted

by Alex Varley-Winter, TTF’s Head of Media Relations & Investigative Reporting

This Thursday British MPs will – for the umpteenth time – debate the fall-out from the Equitable Life scandal, which erupted shortly after the turn of the millennium.

It stems from the day the world’s oldest mutual insurer revealed a black hole in its accounts, as a result of which, more than a million ordinary folk lost £4billion in savings. According to victims’ group campaigners 95% of them have since got back only 22% of the money they lost. That campaign for redress again ramped up in December, with calls backed by MPs for a further £2.6 billion in compensation.

‘Justice Delayed’

In 2008, MPs in Westminster’s Public Administration Committee penned a paper about the Equitable Life scandal titled ‘Justice Delayed’. They observed at the time that many of the victims “are no longer alive, and will be unable to benefit personally from any compensation. We share both a deep sense of frustration and continuing outrage that the situation has remained unresolved for so long.”

Gallingly, that is now more than twelve years ago. The Parliamentary Ombudsman’s report on the scandal in 2008 concluded that there had been ‘a decade of regulatory failure’ and that the members of Equitable Life were seriously let down by the Financial Services Authority and Government bodies. The Government then agreed to compensate victims. Subjects covered by MPs at the time included ‘Lessons for the Future’ and ‘Who watches the watchmen’? Those conclusions bear revisiting today.

Last March, 42 MPs supported an Early Day Motion that called the ongoing lack of full compensation ‘an ongoing and significant injustice’ affecting largely ‘retired factory shop workers, nurses, teachers, civil servants and small business owners’ who had been saving for their retirement. Support has since grown for that campaign. On December 8th, the Equitable Members Action Group tweeted that over 140 MPs, including 72 Conservatives, have signed a Statement of Resolve to secure ‘full compensation’ for Equitable Life policyholders.

Justice denied

John Glen for the Chancellor to the Exchequer, was still saying last week that there are ‘no plans’ to review the £1.5 billion funding allocation previously made to the Equitable Life compensation scheme.

Justice delayed, justice denied. This maxim always reminds me of Franz Kafka’s brutal fairytale ‘Before the Law’ in which a man from the country is stalled by a gatekeeper, who says that he cannot give him access to the Law just at this moment. “It is possible,” admits the gatekeeper, “but not now.” Kafka wrote that ‘the man from the country has not expected such difficulties: the law should always be accessible for everyone, he thinks …’

However, intimidated by the gatekeeper’s appearance, Kafka’s man from the country decides that it would be better to wait for permission … what unfolds is a masterful short story and I will not spoil the ending. Kafka must be the only writer in history to have the bureaucracy that he satirised permanently alluded to in the English Dictionary by the adjective ‘kafkaesque’. Kafka was also intimately acquainted with the workings of the Czech Law of his day. He was himself a lawyer; perhaps an angry one.

Transparency Task Force to respond to Treasury reviews of financial services

TTF will submit papers to a Parliamentary inquiry, and  to Government, on what consumers need

Two parallel calls for evidence relating to financial services regimes and regulation close soon in Westminster. The first is run by the Government’s Treasury, called the Future Regulatory Framework Review: Consultation, running until February 19th- it includes a question about the ‘key accountability, scrutiny and public engagement mechanisms for the regulators’ which members of TTF’s #RegulatorsWatch group might find interesting.

The second is a parallel public inquiry by Parliament’s Treasury Committee on the Future of Financial Services following Brexit. Their Call for Evidence again includes a question that I know will interest some of our members.  ‘How important is the independence of regulators and how might this best be protected?’

Our members are busy pooling ideas, so if you would like to contribute to TTF’s submissions get in touch here.

Parliamentarians flag insolvency industry's lack of stewardship

MPs promoting ‘fairer business banking’ have pledged to investigate banks’ relations with I.P.s

The Times’ Louisa Clarence-Smith got this nice scoop last week that some Parliamentarians are now probing the Insolvency profession. Clarence-Smith reported that there is ‘no independent regulator or ombudsman to oversee the industry’ and that MPs’ focus ‘is likely to be on the relationship between insolvency practitioners and the lending banks that have the power to appoint them.’ Conservative Kevin Hollinrake, chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Fairer Business Banking that is leading that research. He commented to the Times that “In recent years there have been a number of high-profile failures in the insolvency industry. The APPG has also received its fair share of complaints about the system.”

Press Timeline of relevant articles:

18 Jan 2021Wall Street fears bubble from Biden stimulus as retail investing booms by Katherine Greifeld, Claire Ballentine and Vildana Hajric for Independent.ie

17 Jan 2021Bobby Kennedy was right: GDP is a poor measure of a nation’s health by Larry Elliott for the Guardian

12 Jan  2021 – Hong Kong families with money trapped in closed law firm’s frozen bank accounts turn to government for low-interest loans by for South China Morning Post

12 Jan 2021 – Bitcoin: be prepared to lose all your money, FCA warns consumers by Kalyeena Makortoff  for the Guardian

11 Jan 2021Insolvency firms put under investigation after scandals, by Louisa Clarence-Smith for the Times

07 Jan 2021 Regulators and police say Covid lockdowns have driven up online pension scams and demand regulation of Google, Facebook and others by Jim Armitage for the Evening Standard

06 Jan 2021 Why UK savers could fall through the cracks in Brexit regulation from the FCA by Jim Armitage for the Evening Standard

04 Jan 2021Bank of England fails to publish officials’ expenses by Alex Ralph for the Times

03 Jan 2021Five years on and still no answers over HBOS affair by Jill Treanor and Liam Kelly for Sunday Times

31 Dec 2020So, when WILL we learn truth about bank chiefs? Another year and still no sign of key HBOS probe by Lucy White for the Mail

24 Dec 2020ASIC drops investigation into Westpac, by Investor Daily in Australia

21 Dec 2020Financial Conduct Authority fines just ten wrongdoers this year by Patrick Hosking in the Times

19 Dec 2020 Andrew Bailey could return to face MPs after damning report on London Capital & Finance scandal by Ben Martin & Patrick Hosking for the Times

18 Dec 2020Google urged to vet online financial promotions better by Huw Jones for Reuters

18 Dec 2020Financial Conduct Authority insiders warned of London Capital & Finance-style minibonds in 2013 but nothing was done by Jim Armitage for the Evening Standard

18 Dec 2020Blue Gate escapes $13.5 million Connaught fund fine from FCA by Huw Jones for Reuters

18 Dec 2020Executives at Financial Conduct Authority to lose bonuses over London Capital & Finance scandal by Ben Martin for the Times – Bosses at the Financial Conduct Authority will lose £205,000 in bonuses after the highly critical report on the regulator’s handling of the London Capital & Finance scandal

17 Dec 2020The fallout from the financial regulator’s shocking failure on LC&F is not over yet by Nils Pratley for the Guardian

17 Dec 2020FCA did not ‘effectively supervise’ collapsed mini-bond issuer LCF, says report by Matthew Vincent for the Financial Times  “Members of the Transparency Task Force, a lobby group pushing for regulatory reform, pointed out that in his own representations to the Gloster review, Mr Bailey included a demand “to delete references to ‘responsibility’ resting with specific identified/identifiable individuals”.

17 Dec 2020Former Financial Conduct Authority boss Bailey apologises over handling of mini-bond scandal by Ben Martin for the Times

16 Dec 2020EU cannot be ‘captured’ by City of London, warns financial services chief by Sam Fleming and Jim Brunsden for the Financial Times

16 Dec 2020Treasurer plots ASIC shakeout by John Kehoe for Financial Review

15 Dec 2020How to remake Australia’s lame corporate watchdog by Pamela Hanrahan for Financial Review

08 Dec 2020MPs call for £2.6bn Equitable Life compensation by Adam Williams for the Telegraph

03 Dec 2020HMRC ‘treat the victims of pension scams like criminals’: Taxman has benefited from the ‘proceeds of crime’ MPs are told by Tom Kelly for Daily Mail

25 Nov 2020FSCS seeks extra £92m in interim levy by Daniela Esnerova for MoneyMarketing

25 Nov 2020  – Trump Administration Targets Banks Divesting From Fossil Fuels In New Anti-Climate Rule by Sharon Kelly for DeSmogBlog

23 Nov 2020Bank of England policymaker warns of ‘pandemic hangovers’, as private sector shrinks – as it happened by Graeme Wearden for the Guardian

16 Nov 2020 – Bank of England ‘failing’ on climate change reform by Philip Aldrick for the Times

16 Nov 2020 – Fed moves closer to joining global peers in climate-change fight by Ann Saphir for Reuters

14 Nov 2020Fraudsters will exploit Covid vaccine to con vulnerable, warns National Crime Agency by Charles Hymas for Telegraph

09 Nov 2020Ombudsman inundated with complaints about loans by Katherine Griffiths for the Times

09 Nov 2020Spike in personal pension cases at ombudsman by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser

09 Nov 2020 – Regulator: Climate risk ‘looms even larger’ than pandemic by Avery Ellfeldt for ClimateWire (U.S.)

08 Nov 2020How financial services watchdog has reacted to UK consumer worries in Covid by Hilary Osborne for Guardian

08 Nov 2020Five predictions for banking regulation in a Biden presidency by Jon Hill for Law 360

05 Nov 2020Martin Lewis warns of ‘epidemic of scams’ after ICU nurse loses £8,000 by Scott Edwards for Wales Online

05 Nov 2020FCA bans adviser trio jailed for sex offences by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser

03 Nov 2020 – ‘We haven’t received a penny’: Business interruption insurance row intensifies as owners fear payout delays, by Elizabeth Anderson for iNews

03 Nov 2020Aviva’s shares fiasco highlights weakness of the city watchdog by Patrick Hosking for the Times

02 Nov 2020Banks have done little to help the country through the pandemic, so why is the government rewarding them? by Simon Youel for the Independent

29 Oct 2020 – Calls to sack Malta financial regulator CEO by Cristian Angeloni for International Adviser

27 Oct 2020U.S. group urges Biden to use financial regulation to control climate change by Valerie Volcovici for Reuters

27 Oct 2020 ‘Impact startups’ continue to raise funding during the pandemic despite difficulties faced by the wider tech startup sector by Sebastian Klovig Skelton for Computer Weekly

26 Oct 2020 – Why there must be thorough probe of claims made by Bank Signature Forgery Campaign – Greg Wright  for the Yorkshire Post

26 Oct 2020 –  Critics demand action over ‘flawed’ British Banking Resolution Service by James Hurley for the Times

24 Oct 2020Banks look to debt collectors to recover bounce back loans by Nicholas Megaw, Stephen Morris and Daniel Thomas for the FT

23 Oct 2020Bank Signature Forgery (film) by Nicholas Wilson for Corruption UK

22 Oct 2020 – UK fraud agency suffers string of senior departures by Kate Beioley for the FT

22 Oct 2020 HSBC froze £1.5bn of customers’ cash in ‘dormant accounts’ – report by Kalyeena Makortoff & Juliette Garside for the Guardian

22 Oct 2020Work harder to find fraud, watchdog tells auditors by James Hurley for the Times

17 Oct 2020 – MPs pursue claims bank signatures were faked on court papers by Rupert Jones for the Guardian

16 Oct 2020 We need universal digital ad transparency now by Laura Edelson, Erika Franklin Fowler and Jason Chuang for TechCrunch

15 Oct 2020 – Rising COVID-19 Rates Send NatWest Misselling Trial To Video by Bonnie Eslinger for Law 360

15 Oct 2020 – MPs Push Agencies to Act on Forged Signature Claims by Law360

13 Oct 2020 –  Mark Carney says banks should link executive pay to Paris climate goals by Kalyeena Makortoff for the Guardian

12 Oct 2020 ‘It is time to reboot the competition regime for the modern, digital age’ by David Wighton, The Times

12 Oct 2020 Gina Miller blasts FCA complaints scheme changes ‘unfair, immoral and illegal’ by Cristian Angeloni for Portfolio Adviser

12 Oct 2020MPs call for input on Pension Schemes Bill by James Phillips for Professional Pensions

10 Oct 2020 Give pension trustees power to fight scammers, say MPs by Kenza Bryan for the Times

08 Oct 2020  – Freedom to transfer pensions should be stripped where scams are suspected, industry experts urge by Jessica Beard for the Telegraph

08 Oct 2020 – Planned pensions shake-up passes first Commons hurdle by Law 360

08 Oct 2020 – WPC chairman says transfer rules ‘must be changed’ by Amy Austin for FT Adviser

07 Oct 2020 – Tech giants share blame for pension scams, MPs told by Law 360

06 Oct 2020 – FCA opens 85 cases over pension scam concerns by Amy Austin for FT Adviser

03 Oct 2020 – Record number of savers fall victim to investment fraud as scam adverts stay on Google by Andrew Ellson for The Times

02 Oct 2020A New Theory of Soil by Alex Varley-Winter for SustainAct

 
 
 
28 Sep 2020 – PM urged to show leadership in fight against scams by Amy Austin for FT Adviser
 
28 Sep 2020The 100 Whistleblowers who changed Wall Street by Stephen M. Kohn and Mary Jane Wilmoth for National Law Review
 
28 Sep 2020TTF calls for govt leadership on pension scams following meeting with PM by Sophie Smith for Pensions Age
 
 
26 Sep 2020 – £60m revamp for Action Fraud hotline that failed victims by Martin Beckford for The Sunday Times
 
25 Sep 2020 – FCA labels Google’s scam advert efforts ‘deeply frustrating’ by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser
 
23 Sep 2020 – Bank Forgery Campaign (video) by Andy Verity for BBC
 
 
20 Sep 2020 – Explore the FinCEN Files Data and Suspicious activity reports, explained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ); Fergus Shiel and Ben Hallman
 
21 Sep 2020 Flood of complaints expected over Covid-19 UK business loans, by Kalyeena Makortoff for the Guardian
 
 
 
16 Sep 2020 – Regulators Accused of Ignoring Scam Warnings by Jack Gray for Pensions Age
 
16 Sep 2020Tougher clampdown on pension scams is needed, MPs told by Vicky Shaw for Belfast Telegraph
 
 
11 Sep 2020 – ‘Delay changes to Watchdog Complaints Scheme’ by James Hurley for The Times
 
 
03 Sep 2020Regulators have not yet got to grips with how to close down crooks, warns TTF  by Hope William-Smith for Professional Pensions
 

24 Aug 2020Financial Conduct Authority rushes to minimise compensation for its failings by James Hurley for The Times

04 Aug 2020Have your say: Will the WPC’s inquiry into the impact of pension freedoms be too overshadowed by Covid-19 impacts? by Professional Pensions

03 Aug 2020 – ‘“I’m 39, have lost my job and am in debt – can I unlock my £18k pension?” … DON’T do it!’‘ by Steve Webb for This is Money

01 Aug 2020‘I lost £2.3m after I was conned into transferring my pension’ by Jessica Beard for the Telegraph

31 Jul 2020 ‘Common sense’ prevails as pension freedom withdrawals fall 17% — But drop is expected to be ‘a short-term blip’ by Robbie Lawther for International Adviser

31 Jul 2020HMRC figures show plunging pension freedom withdrawals by Hope William-Smith for Professional Adviser

28 Jul 2020MPs launch inquiry into pension scams  by Tom Kelly for Daily MailUK Pension Scams Under Scrutiny After 2015 Relaxation in Rules by Reuters & MPs launch wide-ranging pension scams probe by Justin Cash for MoneyMarketing

24 Jul 2020 – US business groups seek steps to stamp out online fraud by Leonie Barrie for Just Style

22 Jul 2020Pension scams increase amid lockdown by Sophie Smith for Pensions Age & Missed Opportunity to Use Victims in Scam Work by Amy Austin for FT Adviser

21 Jul 2020  Londongrad Calling: Is Europe’s Laundromat the ‘New Normal’? by Mark Conrad

20 Jul 2020 Campaigners Aim to Create Pension Scam Database by Michael Klimes & Government eyes unauthorised firms by Justin Cash for MoneyMarketing

17 Jul 2020 – Year ‘dominated’ by FCA shortcomings as 205 complaints made,  by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser

29 Jun 2020 – MPs Pushed to Launch Pension Scam Inquiry by Amy Austin for FT Adviser & Lawmakers Urged To Open Inquiry Into Pension Scams by Martin Croucher for Law 360

14 May 2020 – Under Rising Pressure on Climate, JP Morgan Rejects Shareholders’ Calls to Disclose Carbon Footprint by Alex Varley-WInter for DeSmog

11 May 2020 – FCA urged to build public trust in independent reviews by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser

30 Apr 2020 – FCA was warned three years ago about mini-bond firm Blackmore Bond, which collapsed with £45m of savers’ money by Ben Chapman for the Independent

15 Apr 2020 – Met police lose two thirds of finance officers as fraud soars by Ben Ellery for the Times

25 Mar 2020 – Care Home Wants NatWest Docs in Misselling Fight by Law360

20 Mar 2020 – Connaught review delayed as Covid-19 concerns loom by Rachel Mortimer in FT Adviser

07 Jan 2020It’s time to keep your pensions promise, Boris! The PM pledged to help these victims of a huge scam FOUR years ago – and they’re still waiting by Tom Kelly for the Daily Mail.

29 Dec 2019‘Lambs to the slaughter – tens of thousands of savers have lost up to £10billion in rogue pensions schemes sanctioned by the government… and now the taxman is threatening VICTIMS with fines’, and ‘Making millions from other people’s misery’: A Government adviser, call centre chief and pension scheme director are among those who stand accused of involvement in pension schemes that exploited loophole in the law by Tom Kelly for the Daily Mail

15 Aug 2019Victims hit by Connaught’s collapse blast City watchdog for ‘whitewashing’ independent review by Lucy White for Daily Mail

05 Aug 2019Plunder in paradise: The ‘adviser’ behind a Costa scam that has cost expat pensioners £25MILLION – and led one to attempt suicide by Laura Shannon for Mail on Sunday

05 Jul 2019 Government-owned bank ‘forging signatures’ in repossession cases by Andy Verity for BBC

18 Jun 2019“I came home to find my house had been stolen!” by Angela Ellis-Jones for the Daily Mail

20 Jun 2019 – FCA orders review of its handling of Connaught collapse by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser

13 Jun 2019 – Investigation into disgraced RBS small business unit branded a ‘whitewash’ by MPs by Ben Chapman for the Independent

29 Mar 2019MPs call for inquiry into alleged forgery of signatures by Andy Verity for BBC

15 Feb 2017 – RBS accused of fraud & forgery by customers and ex-employee by Andrew Hosken for The World Tonight BBC Radio 4

22 Dec 2016Solicitors suspended for roles in collapsed Brazilian investment scheme by Nick Hilborne for Legal Futures

23 Sep 2016Which? makes scams super-complaint by Adam French for Which?

08 Aug 2016The Latest Bank Interest Rate Scandal Signals A Crisis Of Australian Democracy by Professor Carl Rhodes for New Matilda