Seeds of the insurer's undoing were sown back in 1957

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The Independent Online

1762 Equitable Life is founded.

1957 Guaranteed annuity rate (GAR) contracts, that were to be Equitable's undoing, are first sold.

1988 Equitable stops offering GARs on policies.

1994 The board introduces a bonus policy that treated policyholders' GARs unfairly.

1997 Roy Ranson, managing director since 1991, retires.

1997 The Institute of Actuaries warns companies of dangers of GARs and advises companies to start reserving for them.

1998 The Treasury begins discussing reserves for GAR options with Equitable.

1999 Policyholders mount challenge against GAR bonus policy. Equitable wins court case. Equitable parks liabilities with a reinsurer to help it cover solvency rules.

January 2000 Court of Appeal overturns ruling in policyholders' favour. Bonuses are suspended to all with-profit policyholders.

July 2000 Case goes to the House of Lords, which upholds Court of Appeal verdict. Equitable is left with £1.5bn bill to honour guarantees and puts itself up for sale.

December 2000 No buyer is found and company is closed to new business. Alan Nash, managing director since 1997, resigns, leaving Chris Headdon, the former appointed actuary, to take over.

February 2001 Equitable's operating assets sold to Halifax. Vanni Treves and Charles Thomson appointed as chairman and chief executive.

July 2001 Swinging bonus cuts are landed on all policyholders.

August 2001 The Treasury commissions Lord Penrose to conduct inquiry in to events leading up to Equitable's near collapse.

October 2001 The Baird Report into the Financial Services Authority's handling of the case says the "die was cast" before it took over regulation.

January 2002 Equitable secures crucial compromise scheme with some 90,000 policyholders, who give up their guarantees in exchange for an uplift to their policy.

April 2002 Equitable begins £3.2bn legal action against 15 former directors and £2.6bn action against former its auditors, Ernst & Young.

July 2002 With-profit policies cut by further 10 per cent.

June 2003 Parliamentary Ombudsman finds no evidence of regulatory failure by the FSA.

December 2003 Lord Penrose hands over 800 page report to the Treasury.

March 2004 Publication of Penrose report.

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