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New Equitable inquiry may block FSA report

The FSA report into its handling of the Equitable Life debacle may never be published following the Treasury&#39s announcement of an independent inquiry into the troubled life office.

The inquiry, which has no end date, may open the door to Government compensation.

It will be headed by Scottish commercial judge Lord Penrose who has a background in financial services and, unlike many of his judicial colleagues, is not an Equitable policyholder.

Penrose does not have the authority to compel anyone to appear before him, nor can he review the House of Lords decision on guaranteed annuities.

Treasury economic secretary Ruth Kelly said in a recent interview that she will decide whether to publish the FSA report once she has read it.

The FSA has said its report will be with the Treasury in two weeks. Last December, the regulator promised it would be published earlier this summer but the Treasury then said the report was delayed and would be made public in the autumn.

The Government has said “legal and commercial confidentiality issues” could mean the Penrose inquiry may be held in private and could lead to his report not being published in full.

Annuity Bureau director Ronnie Lymburn says: “I do not think this new review is going to do anything for people who are in deep trouble at the moment. You can have all the reviews you want but it is not going to change anything.”

A Treasury spokesman says: “It is impossible to say when we will publish the FSA report until we see what it has to say and have spoken to Lord Penrose about it.”

An FSA spokeswoman says: “We fully expect our report to be published, that is what we have always said. The Treasury has never said when it will be published exactly.”

Comment, p29

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