Page last updated at 08:37 GMT, Wednesday, 9 July 2008 09:37 UK

Equitable report is out next week

Ann Abraham
Ann Abraham's report has faced a number of delays

A report will be published next week that campaigners hope could pave the way for compensation claims of billions of pounds by Equitable Life customers.

The insurer nearly collapsed in 2000, causing a big fall in the value of more than a million UK customers' policies.

Speculation has been swirling about a delayed Parliamentary Ombudsman's report into the government's regulation of Equitable Life.

Wednesday's Daily Telegraph says the report will highlight failings.

The newspaper says it has seen a draft copy of the report, with blame attributed to the Treasury, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and the Government Actuary's Department. The report will show watchdog bodies were "guilty of maladministration", it says.

A spokesman for the Ombudsman confirmed that the report, which has been delayed, will be published next week, but refused to confirm or deny any of the reports on its contents.

Previous delays

Policyholders of Equitable Life - the world's oldest insurance company - hope the report could pave the way for the government to pay compensation if it is criticised.

But they have been made to wait because of delays in publication of the report, which was originally expected to be published in 2005.

The ombudsman, Ann Abraham, blamed the delay on "substantial representations" received from government bodies in response to her draft report.

This is the second report about Equitable from the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

Equitable Life logo
The Ombudsman's investigation was reopened in 2004

Ms Abraham's first report was published in July 2003, and cleared the FSA of any wrongdoing.

In July 2004 she announced she would reopen her investigation, and focus on the government's role in regulating Equitable.

Equitable closed to new business in 2000, after the House of Lords said it had to honour promises made to pension policyholders, which it could not afford to pay.

This led to more than a million policyholders in the UK and several thousand in Ireland and Germany seeing the value of their policies fall sharply.

In June 2007 the European Parliament called on the UK government to compensate policyholders after a report from MEPs said it had failed to ensure that EU legislation on insurance had been implemented properly.

It also said that the UK's system of financial regulation had been "excessively lenient" in failing to ensure that Equitable was solvent.

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