Carpetbaggers assail Standard Life again

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Britain's biggest mutual life assurance company, Standard Life, yesterday came under attack from carpetbaggers for the second time in two months.

The Standard Life Members' Action Group, headed by Fred Woollard, launched another attempt to force Standard Life to ditch its mutual status, attempting to trigger windfalls of up to £6,000.

The group posted a new requisition - a resolution that the board will have to consider if 50 members back it - on its website, which members can print out and send back to SLMAG.

In February, Standard Life, which has assets worth more than £79bn, fought off an earlier attempt led by SLMAG to force it to demutualise. The society rejected the move because it said members could not direct the board to carry out a particular action demanded by an ordinary resolution.

To try to circumvent this defence, the action group has this time made its request a special resolution. About 75 per cent of those voting have to support it compared with 50 per cent approval for so-called normal requests, but if successful it would force a response from the board.

The group has not yet officially contacted Standard Life. If it does the board will have three months before it puts the proposition to all members.

The new requisition contains two further special resolutions, which request that owners of traded endowment policies benefit from any windfalls. The Edinburgh-based company is likely to see the move as a way for Mr Woollard to drum up support, as the market for second-hand endowments has recently been flooded by carpetbaggers.

Standard Life is braced for a stormy annual meeting in Edinburgh next Tuesday. The members' group plans to lodge yesterday's requisition in the morning and will try to use the meeting to press its point.

But the life assurance industry is sceptical that Standard Life - which launched a successful direct banking service last year and controls 10 per cent of the first-time mortgage market - will fall to carpetbaggers. One insider said: "This could become a political issue and the Scottish Parliament could get involved."