Liddell carries out `name and shame' pensions threat

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The Independent Online
Helen Liddell, the Economic Secretary, yesterday carried out her threat to "name and shame" insurers dragging their feet over the pensions mis- selling scandal by attacking Legal & General and the Sedgwick Group for poor responses to the issue.

The minister said she had singled out the two companies because they had failed to understand the urgency involved in sorting out the question of compensation to those affected.

Mrs Liddell threatened that unless she was convinced by the autumn that companies were on target with their conduct of the pensions review, she would be prepared to take other, unspecified, action to force them to comply.

Her comments followed the publication by the Treasury of responses by 24 insurance companies and large financial advice firms, in which they gave details of how they proposed to resolve the problem. The responses were demanded after a meeting in which Mrs Liddell read the riot act, accusing firms of inertia on the subject.

In a reply to a Parliamentary Question from the Labour MP Stephen Timms yesterday, Mrs Liddell said: "While most of the policy statements sent to me showed a business-like sense of purpose, I regret that there are two which appear to misunderstand the Government's determination that this matter must be resolved with despatch."

Mrs Liddell singled out the Sedgwick Group, one of the largest firms of independent financial advisers, for its response. In its letter, the company claimed to be "disappointed that the minister did not have the opportunity to brief herself on the background prior to calling the meeting at the Treasury, or particularly, writing the follow-up letter to us."

L&G came under fire for suggesting that criticisms contained in the Minister's letter were not justified.

Mrs Liddell said that in about two weeks the Treasury would be releasing details of the speed with which the 24 companies concerned had dealt with pension review cases.

She is also expecting the PIA, currently responsible for tens of thousands of so-called "orphan clients", where IFAs have gone out of business, to deal with its cases as swiftly as the rest of the industry.

But the minister warned against shortcuts: "There are some cases that firms are adopting or considering, accelerated case management techniques which will improve the speed of case handling without prejudicing investors' rights.

"However, I shall be looking for evidence that firms are showing their sincerity and commitment to customer service."

David Prosser, group chief executive at L&G, yesterday said he was "extremely disappointed" to hear his company had been singled out for attack. "I did not know about this until this afternoon," Mr Prosser added. "Our letter was a response to comments by the minister in which she asked for an assurance that we would not `continue to wrong our clients'. We are not continuing to wrong them.''

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