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When ‘fair’ means daylight robbery

[18 Feb 2012]  The Equitable Life scandal, in which tens of thousands of pensioners and investors have been relieved of their savings by governmental failure, has produced a new meaning for the word ‘fair’. Fair now means ‘unfair’.

Letters to people entitled to compensation begin with the glowing sentence: ‘The Equitable Life Payment Scheme has been set up by HM Government to make fair and transparent payments to Equitable Life policyholders for relative financial loss suffered as a result of Government maladministration in the regulation of Equitable Life.’

So what might be a ‘fair’ amount after the Ombudsman ruled in the investors’ favour? 100% of their loss? 90% of their loss? 50% of their loss?

Well, no, it’s actually going to be 22.5% of their loss – less than a quarter.

It’s all spelt out in the bits of Latin and footnotes being sent to investors. For example: ‘Your loss vs comparable fund = £1,825.86’. Then come the dread words ‘Applying pro-rata’ and a footnote saying ‘To meet affordability constraints, payments...have been set at a 22.5% proportion of the Relative Loss.’

A leaflet explains: ‘The rate was calculated in order to be fair to taxpayers as well as policyholders.’

Which all means: ‘Yes, the last Government screwed up, but because the coffers are empty the present Government isn’t going to pay you what it owes, despite what the Ombudsman said and all the promises we made in Opposition.’

What an illuminating parable of our times. Meanwhile, the Equitable Members Action Group bravely fights on to get proper payouts.

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