The good news is there is finally going to be an independent inquiry into the Equitable Life debacle conducted by a non-Equitable policyholder. The bad news is we are unlikely to find out the result for at least a year.
That is if we get the results at all. Worryingly, announcing the inquiry, to be chaired by Scottish commercial judge Lord Penrose, the Treasury's careful wording in its press release warns: “The inquiry will cover information that is private and confidential .As such, it will be necessary for the majority of the inquiry to be held in private.”
The Treasury goes on: “The results will be published so far as possible, subject to legal and confidentiality issues.”
Even more worryingly, speaking on Channel 4 News on Friday evening, Treasury economic secretary Ruth Kelly, who announced the new review that morning, claimed she had not even seen the FSA's review of the debacle and that it was now unlikely that this review will be published until Penrose reports.
Are policyholders supposed to sit and wait for another year while bonuses plummet? With so many pension pots at stake there should be a full public inquiry.
Meanwhile, the Government has ruled out using public funds to compensate policyholders or to keep Equitable afloat for the time being, which is commendable, although it has not ruled out such a move once the inquiry has reported.
While we have every sympathy for policyholders, why should public funds be used to bail them out of a poor investment decision? What next, will technology fund investors be bailed out from the public purse?