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Play the flip side of the claim game

Years ago, we had a set of coasters in our home decorated with sage statements along the lines of “A fool and his money are soon parted.” This is probably the element of the phrase that most people remember but when you flipped the coasters over, they gave you the balance of the phrase which in this case was “How did they get together in the first place?”. Without its contradictory segment, it loses its meaning and purpose.

I thought of these coasters when I was reading recently about the FSA’s refusal to release their legal opinion on the long stop on claims. I can understand why they will not release it and I think strategically they are correct. However, it does underline the fact that this concept of no end in sight, with regard to claims for supposed misselling, is really not sitting too comfortably with human rights legislation.

I recall several years ago in this column I suggested that I would opt to be buried with my files. I thought this was the easiest way to deal with it and as at that time I was considering cremation, it seemed to be adding that touch of finality and saving the cost of storage or shredding.

It is undeniably true that this topic needs serious debate. I still believe that the pension misselling analysis was fundamentally flawed in many cases and as the final- salary schemes gradually tumble down one by one, I have to ask how long it is going to be before someone who was repatriated into a final-salary scheme takes action against the regulator.

I say against the regulator because there was very clear guidance from the regulator at that time that the ideal position was to put someone back into the scheme that they had been taken from.

Given the perilous state of some final-salary schemes, this may not have proved to be the correct or most appropriate destination, although it was certainly seen as the most expedient at the time. I think it also underlines the fact that to take a position which suggests that one wrapper is permanently superior to another is naïve at best and probably, at worst, irresponsible.

However, we are where we are and I think we have to recognise there will be ongoing discussions as to whether people with contracts such as low-cost endowments have a continuing right to raise actions. This is despite the fact they have had probably the equivalent of a small rain forest sent in their direction telling them what the current position is.

More recently, I heard of a case where the original claim was turned down, yet the policyholders have managed to forget that the claim was unsuccessful and then reapply. Is this due to a sudden loss of memory or that they hoped that they would be more successful this time?

Where the public are bearing false witness, they should similarly be brought to account. I am not suggesting that people who are making a claim should be concerned they could suddenly face some kind of Draconian sanction but at least they have to understand that where their claim is spurious and they have already been informed of that fact, further claims should expose them to additional cost.

My personal coaster favourite was “Great minds think alike.” I was not sure whether I was disappointed to find that the balance of the phrase was “Fools seldom differ.” It sort of says it all, doesn’t it?


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