Equitable Life concealed a "black hole" in its finances for almost a decade, a new report suggests.
Equitable Life woes may date back to 1990
Policyholders were led to believe the financial crisis at the company had started in 1999.
But new findings from accountants Burgess Hodgson suggest that Equitable had already amassed a huge hidden deficit of more than £1.3bn ($2bn) as early as 1990.
The report was commissioned by the Equitable Members' Action Group (EMAG) and is being put forward by the group as new evidence that the regulators let down policyholders.
The report's author, Colin Slater, of chartered accountants Burgess Hodgson, said: "We, like most other Equitable policyholders, assumed the problems started some time in the late nineties, perhaps with the House of Lords decision.
"What we have found is that the problem went back very much further and was much more deep rooted. It starts at about £1.3bn and it carries on at much that rate throughout the 1990s up to 2000.
EMAG claim the report amounts to new evidence and are using it to demand an evaluation by the Parliamentary Ombudsman of the regulators with a view to securing government compensation.
The findings are featured in The Money Programme: The Death of Equitable Life, to be shown on BBC Two at 9.50pm Thursday 27 March.