Publication of Lord Penrose's report into the financial crisis at Equitable Life has certainly set the cat among the pigeons, and is already being labelled in some quarters of the industry as nothing more than a whitewash.
Its detail has not come as that much of a shock to the industry, even as, a) the executive of the firm has been mainly blamed for the dubious position in which its finances were maintained; b) regulatory bodies prior to the FSA's birth - the DTI, Treasury and Government Actuary's Department - have been fingered for not exactly knowing how the mutual insurer operated; and c) the government has lifted itself out of the compensation prospect by pointing out the company is still afloat and policyholders are therefore not entitled to payouts.
Penrose goes to some length to criticise the firm's former directors, who are now being sued by the current directorate - even though this report did not, apparently, set out to apportion blame - before toning down its comments on the regulators' roles.
While the report was very revealing, it still doesn't help the one million policyholders who have lost thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of pounds and looking for someone to repay the trust they have seen shattered.
Anyone who believes that is the end of the affair, however, is very much mistaken, as legal experts believe the Treasury is well aware of the shaky ground on which it stands. And policyholders are seeking action from the European Commission - the only authority with any potential power over the UK government - to see whether they can force the issue of compensation.
That process, and any court proceedings against the former directors, could yet take years, so unfortunately it is down to the IFA to give the difficult advice again. This time intermediaries may have to advise their clients to finally cut their losses. But only if they genuinely believe there simply is no good in policyholders remaining with the Society.
Those policyholders who are still with Equitable Life now have got to make tough decisions, and no one client is in the same position as another. Given the bad feeling about the lack of retribution against regulatory authorities, advisers are being advised by legal experts to stand firm and do what the regulator expects of all IFAs: give best advice and explain in detail why such advice is recommended.
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