Palmer attacked over memo: MP challenges PIA head about regulatory failings at Legal & General

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The Independent Online
JOE PALMER came under more pressure yesterday to resign as chairman of the Personal Investment Authority after new disclosures about the regulatory failings at Legal & General while he was in charge.

Brian Sedgemore, the Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, challenged Mr Palmer's position after producing a confidential memo from an L&G compliance officer detailing widespread rule breaches by sales staff while Mr Palmer was chief executive.

Mr Sedgemore produced the memo, dated 23 November 1990, without warning yesterday at a Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee hearing into the PIA's progress. The new personal savings regulator is due to start operations in July, but figures produced by the authority yesterday showed applications from potential members had slowed to a trickle.

The L&G memo from C Marshall, a compliance officer, to J Kidner, director of L&G's financial consultancy, includes the conclusion: 'If Lautro discover the true situation at our next periodic inspection visit then we would be liable to face disciplinary and possibly even intervention action.'

The existence of the memo was exclusively revealed by the Independent last month.

In an unconnected case, Lautro fined L&G pounds 180,000 two months ago for breaking rules.

The L&G memo said an investigation into one sales consultant, who had been discovered selling investment products while he was unlicensed, in clear breach of Lautro rules, had led to the discovery that 'this practice is extremely widespread throughout the consultancy'.

Mr Palmer told yesterday's committee hearing that he had not been sent the memo and had not seen it. He said the memo referred to a single incident, and rejected Mr Sedgemore's allegation that it proved that L&G lacked adequate controls when Mr Palmer was chief executive.

He admitted that the public's perception of the head of the PIA was important to its success, but said the memo did not undermine his personal integrity or his suitability as a head of the authority.