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Equitable Life victims win court battle

Hundreds of thousands more Equitable Life policyholders are now likely to receive compensation after the High Court yesterday found against the Treasury in a decade-long battle over payouts.<br /><br />Two High Court judges condemned the government&rsquo;s decision to ignore findings made by the Parliamentary Obmudsman last year that there had been regulatory failures and &ldquo;injustice and maladministration&rdquo; which led to the firm&rsquo;s near-collapse in 2000 and caused thousands to lose their savings.<br /><br />The report, by Ann Abraham, had accused the government of a &ldquo;decade of regulatory failure&rdquo;, which led to Equitable Life &ndash; the UK&rsquo;s largest private pension provider at the time &ndash; being unable to meet guaranteed annuities, and had demanded compensation for thousands of affected policyholders. <br /><br />Abraham had found the government guilty on 10 counts of maladministration, however it would only accept five in full, four in part and it completely rejected one.<br /><br />But in a landmark ruling yesterday, Lord Justice Carnwath and Justice Gross supported Abraham&rsquo;s recommendation that the qualifying date for victims seeking compensation be moved back from 1999 to the early 1990s. <br /><br />The Court gave the government 21 days to respond to the ruling, and to detail the actions it planned to take.<br /><br />Equitable Members Action Group (Emag), the body representing around 21,000 individuals who lost their savings, welcomed the judgement.<br /><br />&ldquo;This is a very big win for Emag. Hundreds of thousands more policyholders are now eligible for some form of compensation, and their relative losses are very much bigger,&rdquo; said its director, Colin Slater.<br /><br />Shadow financial secretary Mark Hoban criticised the government for appealing against the Ombudsman&rsquo;s findings, saying that it should &ldquo;get on with it and give policyholders the justice they deserve&rdquo;.