Victims of the collapse of insurance giant Equitable Life could be entitled to claim billions of pounds worth of compensation thanks to a new report.
The report, being published next week by Parliamentary Ombudsman Ann Abraham, will say that watchdog bodies were guilty of maladministration and will point the finger of blame at the Treasury, Financial Services Authority and the Government Actuary's Department, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The Ombudsman's office has confirmed that the report will be published next week, but declined to discuss its contents or to confirm or deny the Telegraph's account of its conclusions. The newspaper said it had seen a draft copy of Ms Abraham's report, which concludes that the Government's failure to regulate the mutual insurer correctly has led to injustice for policyholders.
The collapse of the world's oldest insurance company eight years ago saw more than a million customers lose up to 50% of their savings and pensions. If the new report does find government departments or agencies to be at fault, then some of those who lost out are likely to pursue court cases to recover their money. The potential cost to the public purse could range as high as £4 billion, experts have estimated.
Pensions campaigner Ros Altmann told the Telegraph: "If the Government is found to have failed in some way and be held responsible for the losses that people have suffered, then it should comply with what the Parliamentary Ombudsman says as quickly as possible, rather than make people wait for more years.
"If the Government can find billions of pounds to bail out savers in Northern Rock - who should have and could have been well aware of what the compensation terms were if that company failed - then how can it deny treating fairly people who have suffered losses from failure of the Government itself?"
A report commissioned by the Treasury and published in 2004 found that regulatory failures were "secondary matters" in the demise of Equitable Life. The Penrose Report that the company had made over-generous payouts to policyholders and was the "author of its own misfortunes."
The Treasury has declined to comment on Ms Abraham's impending report.
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Elizabeth Norris from law firm Irwin Mitchell said: "This long awaited report is eagerly anticipated by those Equitable Life policy holders who's funds were slashed as a result of its collapse.
"This report may give a second bite of the cherry for many policy holders to obtain redress albeit from a different source.
"If you feel that your policy was affected by the collapse of Equitable Life and you would like us to help you seek redress, then please complete and return the questionnaire on the link below or telephone 0114 274 4309 for a copy of the questionnaire to be sent to you."