The long-awaited Penrose Report into the demise of Equitable Life will be published in full next week, countering fears that the Treasury has whitewashed its potentially damaging findings.
MPs and policyholders had been growing increasingly concerned over the fate of the crucial report as the Treasury continued to stall over its publication. Andrew Tyrie, the Conservative MP for Chichester and a former member of the Treasury Select Committee, said the delay in publishing the report, which was finished and handed to the Treasury more than two months ago, was "inexplicable, unacceptable and was fast becoming disgraceful".
The Treasury commissioned Lord Penrose in 2001 to conduct an all-encompassing inquiry in to the events leading up to Equitable's near collapse into insolvency, but it has since reserved the right to hold back parts of his report from the public over legal issues. The 818-page report was delivered to the Treasury in December and while policyholders await its findings, the Financial Services Authority, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Serious Fraud Office have seen it. Extracts have also been given to a number of directors on the board at Equitable itself.
This has given rise to fears of a cover-up of Lord Penrose's findings, as regulators and the Government Actuary's Department, which advises Government departments, are expected to come in for criticism for failing to spot Equitable's threadbare finances sooner. Mr Tyrie yesterday wrote to Lord Penrose asking for assurance that the law lord will speak out if significant material is left out of what the Treasury makes public. "It seems that the report has been seen by everyone apart from those who are most effected by it - the policyholders," Mr Tyrie said yesterday. "Many have raised concerns, notwithstanding the Government's stated intention to publish the report in full, that the report deposited with the Treasury in December may be altered in some way by the Treasury before publication."
While no official date has been set for publication, a Treasury source last night said: "The report will be published in full early next week." According to others close to the situation, the news means that the Serious Fraud Office, which is considering a full investigation of events at Equitable, is likely to drop the matter.
The Penrose Report is critical to policyholders because it could open the doors to compensation for their losses. Equitable was left with a £1.5bn bill in 2000 after the House of Lords ruled that it had to honour guarantees it had given to policyholders.Reuse content