Equitable Life's former management may be the subject of a criminal investigation after it emerged that the Treasury has referred the Penrose report to the Serious Fraud Office.
The SFO has confirmed it has received the 800-page report and will be looking to see whether it is appropriate for it to carry out an investigation on the back of the report's findings.
The independent inquiry into Equitable, headed by Lord Penrose, was ann-ounced by the Treasury in August 2001 with the aim of examining the circumstances that led to the firm's problems and to identify any lessons to be learned for the conduct, admin and regulation of life insurance.
The report is still to be made available publicly and there is a widely held belief that the Treasury is criticised in the findings.
Equitable's present board has indicated that it believes the hurdles of pursuing a legal challenge against the regulators of Equitable are likely to be too high to overcome, believing that the reopening of Parliamentary Ombudsman Ann Abraham's inquiry may be the best way to advance policyholder compensation hopes.
Equitable Life late joiner representative Paul Weir says: “I would have been appalled and surprised if Lord Penrose did not see at least as much evidence as I have seen that would ring alarm bells regarding fraud.”