Your Money: Policy holders to learn worst

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The Independent Online
MILLIONS of personal pension holders will discover this week how much insurance companies are likely to take out of their funds to compensate victims of the pension transfer scandal.

The Securities and Investments Board, the City watchdog, is to release its report on Tuesday on how up to 500,000 people who transferred out of occupational pension schemes unwisely will be dealt with.

Estimates of the cost of compensating those who were poorly advised have now gone over pounds 2bn.

Many of Britain's biggest insurers, such as Prudential, Legal & General, Royal Insurance and Sun Alliance, are owned by shareholders.

Yet shareholders will only foot a fraction of the overall compensation bill, with policyholders having to pay the bulk.

Savers with mutual insurance firms, such as Scottish Amicable, Norwich Union, Clerical Medical or Standard Life, will have to meet the cost out of their investors' life funds.

This is because mutual companies are deemed to be owned by all the policyholders who belong to them. Therefore, all policyholders will have to pay for the mis-selling of some advisers.

Pension plan holders with shareholder-owned companies will also have to bear the cost of compensation, although in some cases the firms have already set aside some reserves to meet the cost.

A Royal Insurance spokesman said: 'The decision would probably depend on the actuary. Whatever happens is that any profits made by a life company fund are split so that policyholders get 90 per cent and shareholders get 10 per cent.

'You could argue that the profits generated by taking on pensions business have been split 90-10 in the past, and there is now a loss, (so) it should also be split in the same way.' The spokesman added that Royal Life's share of the pension transfer market had been extremely small.

A Legal & General spokesman said: 'We follow the 90-10 split between policyholders and shareholders on both losses and gains for with-profits contracts.

'However, for unit-linked contracts, where policyholders get the value of the underlying assets of the fund, the cost will effectively be borne by shareholders' interests.

'The size and strength of the life fund is such that the impact on any individual policyholder will probably not be perceptible.'

A Prudential spokesman said that payments to the industry-wide Investors Compensation Scheme in the past had come from policyholders rather than shareholders.