Treves gives Equitable rebels the V-word

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Relations between Equitable Life and its largest policyholder action group, Emag, deteriorated immeasurably yesterday, as the insurer's chairman Vanni Treves lashed out at the organisation's leaders, branding them "vicious, volatile, venomous and vindictive".</p>Speaking at Equitable's annual general meeting in Westminster, Mr Treves said relations had degenerated so far between the two parties that they had lost hope of any reconciliation under the current leadership.</p>Emag's motion to secure a £2m fighting fund to sue the Government was easily defeated at the AGM. Mr Treves said the board would now have to consider whether it was their duty to policyholders to pursue Emag for the cost involved in putting the motion up for consideration - namely a £50,000 fee for legal advice. Mr Treves said: "Emag through its leadership has been consistently vicious, volatile, venomous and vindictive and bluntly we regard them as untrustworthy and unreliable."</p>Speaking at a press conference later, he added: "It is a matter of great regret to all of us that it has turned out to be impossible to carry on a constructive dialogue with Emag. We've tried, and several times we've bitten our tongues, because they don't respect confidences and they don't behave with even the minimal degree of civility."</p>Mr Treves said despite the breakdown in communication, the Equitable board would not completely ignore any future suggestions by Emag. "It's natural that some of the things said about us are said by "intellectually dysfunctional" people, but it doesn't mean we don't take what is sensible from what they say," he said. "The fact that an idea comes from EMAG does not mean we dismiss it completely."</p>At the annual meeting Mr Treves illustrated his attack on Emag with a series of slides showing extracts from Emag correspondence to both the Financial Services Authority and to members of Equitable's board.</p>One letter sent to Sir Howard Davies, the FSA's former chairman, said Mr Treves had "gerrymandered the vote for directors" at a previous Equitable meeting. Another, sent to Equitable's board in February, referred to a member of the executive as "the office version of a parking warden", advising them to "go get yourself a proper job".</p>Emag's deputy chairman, Colin Slater, who was given a right of reply at the meeting, said Equitable had taken its quotes out of context. "I'm somewhat surprised by the approach Mr Treves has taken. I thought he was a bit more thick skinned," he said. "Emag has concerns about the way the present board has acted. To reduce it to a matter of personal animosity does not do any good for its members."</p>Mr Treves said he had only intended to use the slides on Emag if he was questioned on the society's relationship with the action group. "It is perfectly reasonable for a right thinking member who has blood and not bile in his veins, to ask why you are not talking to Emag," he said. He added that he believed some of the comments relating to himself were libellous. However, he said he did not believe it would be in the interests of members to pursue any form of action.</p>In his main speech to the conference, Mr Treves reiterated Equitable's hopes of getting the Parliamentary Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, to reopen her inquiry into the society. Speaking afterwards, he said he had written to MPs to urge them to ask the Ombudsman to reopen the investigation, and would be meeting her in person to put his case next week. "Since her job is specifically to investigate whether there has been maladministration [within the Government] - I really don't know what she's there to do if she doesn't investigate our affairs.</p>VANNI SPEAK </b></i></p>'Emag through its leadership has been consistently vicious, volatile, venomous and vindictive and bluntly we regard them as untrustworthy and unreliable' - Vanni Treves </p>