15 January 1999 – Equitable Life launches court proceedings
in order to gain approval for cuts to some of its policy holders’ bonuses as it
can no longer afford levels it had promised. Policy holders take legal action
for alleged breach of contract.
5 July 1999 – First court hearing takes place.
9 September, 1999 – Equitable wins first stage of the battle
when court rules it acted lawfully in cutting bonuses. Pension holders appeal.
21 January 2000 – Equitable’s confidence shaken when Court
of Appeal reverses decision, ruling that it must honour original commitments.
Equitable appeals against decision to the House of Lords.
20 July 2000 – House of Lords upholds Appeal Court ruling.
Unable to pay £1.5bn cost of losing, assurer forced to put itself up for sale.
31 August 2001 – Government launches full investigation into
circumstances leading up to its downfall. Lord Penrose, accountant and
commercial judge heads inquiry.
28 January 2002 – Some 98% of company’s guaranteed
policyholders back rescue deal.
22 November 2002 – FSA backs Equitable and says it should
‘not’ be wound up.
18 December 2002 – Equitable chairman Vanni Treves says it
may consider suing government if Penrose report finds governmental regulation
14 February 2003 – Ernst & Young make first appearance
in Equitable saga. Case for damages brought by Equitable against former auditors
E&Y for failing to offer proper advice in 1990’s thrown out by High Court.
The judge in the case describes Equitable’s claim for damages as ‘fanciful’.
Equitable announces that it will appeal the decision.
25 July 2003 – Equitable wins appeal and sues former auditor
E&Y for £2.6bn.
17 October 2003 – Equitable Life wins right to sue nine
former non-executive directors for £3.3bn.
12 November 2003 – In its interim accounts, Equitable says
it is ‘solvent’ but that ‘challenges and uncertainties’ lay ahead.
23 January 2004 – Ruth Kelly, financial secretary to the
Treasury and now minister for education, passes the soon to be published Penrose
report to the Serious Fraud Office.
8 March 2004 – Lord Penrose report published, accusing
former Equitable management team of ‘dubious’ practices and nurturing a ‘culture
of manipulation and concealment’.
15 July 2004 – More than 700 pensioners, known as ‘trapped
annuitants’ lodge a multimillion pound claim against the Society.
19 July 2004 – Ann Abraham, parliamentary ombudsman,
announces she is reopening investigation into life assurer.
16 Sep 2004 – E&Y rules out move to approach the life
insurer with a settlement offer.
21 Sep 2004 – E&Y and Equitable evidence confirm hearing
at the High Court scheduled for 22 Sept in front of Mr Justice Langley.
29 Oct 2004 – Equitable chairman Vanni Treves says the
assurer has ‘very powerful’ case and that it is ‘preparing for trial next year’.
He adds that ‘we are reasonable people and, obviously, we do not want to ruin E
&Y or the livelihoods of its partners and their families unless we have to.’
29 Nov 2004 – Daily Mail suggests Equitable is looking to
settle E&Y case.
04 Feb 2005 – E&Y announces High Court battle with
Equitable is likely to cost £30m for both parties if case is not settled before
the trial is scheduled to end.
11 Apr 2005 – E&Y’s landmark court battle with Equitable
gets underway at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
11 Apr 2005 – Equitable QC launched his client’s £3.75bn
damages claim in the High Court for alleged negligence by former auditors E
13 Apr 2005 – Things hot up at the end of Equitable’s
opening day of statements as it is accused of ‘changing its case as often as the
Prince of Wales changes his mind about his wedding plans’.
13 Apr 2005 – E&Y says it will opens its defence in the
High Court in a week’s time and, in submissions seen by Accountancy
Age, pours scorn on Equitable by saying that the claim against it is
‘over-lawyered’, ‘far fetched’ and based on a claim that is no more than a
13 Apr 2005 – As many as 10 accountants from three of the
Big Four accountancy firms are expected to take the stand as part of Equitable’s
case against E&Y.
26 Apr 2005 – Accountancy Age publishes key opening
documents from Equitable’s lawsuit against its former directors and auditors.
Equitable chief executive Charles Thomson also forced to admit that he had
willingly signed off the society’s 1999 accounts which he now regards as badly
11 May 2005 – Equitable solicitors Herbert Smith forced to
re-examine documents to establish if they are relevant to its case against E
18 May 2005 – At its AGM Equitable chairman says it will
battle on with its multi-billion pound action against E&Y as it remains
‘clearly of the view’ that it is pursuing ‘strong and substantial claims’.
24 Jun 2005 – Accountancy Age reveals that
Equitable attempts to claim another £100m from E&Y. E&Y call this move
as ‘clutching at straws’.
28 June 2005 – Four days later Equitable drops the £100m
claim against E &Y due to fresh legal advice.
29 Jun 2005 – E&Y says Equitable case against it has
become ‘directionless and increasingly confused’ after the mutual dropped its
£100m claim. It adds that the only reason significant aspects of the case
against it are being pursued is to ‘avoid the embarrassment of dropping them’.
06 Jul 2005 – Equitable apologises in court for comments
made at its AGM alleging that the case against former directors concerned fraud
15 Jul 2005 – E&Y opts to drop its own partners as
witnesses in its High Court battle with Equitable.
21 Jul 2005 – Both parts of Equitable’s case against E&
Y are dead, the Big Four firm claims.
19 Sep 2005 – The expert witness for Equitable – PwC audit
partner David Law – was ‘dependent’ on the advice of actuaries and would not
have come to the conclusions he did without them says E&Y.
22 Sep 2005 – Equitable walks away from £700m lawsuit
against its former auditor E&Y. Both parties agree to pay own costs and
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