Standard Life rebels call foul over vote

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The Independent Online

Scottish Life insurer Standard Life was this week accused of trying to give its own candidates an unfair advantage at next month's board elections.

Scottish Life insurer Standard Life was this week accused of trying to give its own candidates an unfair advantage at next month's board elections.

The insurer, which this week spent more than £1m sending out election packs to 2.6m policyholders, faces a challenge from two rebel policyholders who are seeking to join the Standard board. Michael Hogan and David Stonebanks will find out whether their bids to unseat two of Standard's own directors have succeeded at the insurer's AGM on 26 April.

Independent actuary Ronnie Sloan said, however, that the way the election was being run put Hogan and Stonebanks at an unfair disadvantage.

The packs instruct policyholders to vote for six directors; those who want to only back the two rebels will have the other four votes cast by Standard's chairman, unless they tick a box on the ballot paper to say they do not wish this to happen.

Because there are eight candidates standing, six of whom are backed by Standard, the chairman would be able to cast four votes in favour of the insurers' own directors. "The wording is clear but that's not to say people will actually read it," said Sloan. "Standard shouldn't need to behave this way - it's unfair and undemocratic."

Standard plans to demutualise and float in 2006. But its directors have faced criticism over the decisions taken by the company in recent years.

Scott White, Standard's spokesman, said the ballot papers and election packs had been checked by lawyers. "What we are doing has also been approved by the independent Electoral Reform Commission."

Standard confirmed last week that Stonebanks and Hogan had won enough nominations from policyholders to trigger an election. However, Paul Brathwaite, another potential rebel candidate, was unable to secure sufficient backing.

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