SIB under attack on pensions

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The Independent Online

The City's top financial watchdog came under attack yesterday from the Labour Party and the Consumers' Association for dragging its heels over the pensions mis-selling review, leaving hundreds of thousands of savers without compensation so far.

They said that, despite an urgent review into the mis-selling of personal pensions ordered by the Securities and Investments Board 15 months ago, work was many months behind schedule.

Sir Andrew Large, chairman of the SIB, yesterday blamed a combination of computer glitches and legal action against regulators for the debacle.

He claimed that after some delays the process was back on track. "Neither we nor investors will be satisfied until redress has been given to all those to whom it is due," Sir Andrew added.

But the SIB, which published a progress report into the pensions review yesterday, was criticised by Labour's City spokesman, Alastair Darling.

Mr Darling said: "Blaming the delays on computer software isn't good enough. The regulators must break free from the interests of the trade and act for the public good."

Kate Scribbins, head of the money group at the Consumers' Association, added: "SIB set its own timetable and has been unable to meet the first of its deadlines. We are little further down the road of redress for those who have been mis-sold pensions than before this exercise began."

The regulator's progress report follows a paper from the SIB in November 1994, which said up to 1.5 million people may have been mis-sold a personal pension.

Last year, all the junior regulators were told to deal with the most urgent 350,000 cases by 31 December.

Some watchdogs, including the fund managers' regulator, Imro, have now completed a large part of the review.

But the main financial services regulator, the Personal Investment Authority, has seen its own efforts stalled by legal action and a longstanding row with indemnity insurers, which must foot the compensation bill.