FORMER Millenium Dome chief Jennifer Page yesterday came under heavy fire from disaffected policyholders at re-elections to the board of Equitable Life in a fiery annual meeting in London.|
Some members questioned the credibility of Ms Page, who has been a director of the beleaguered mutual life assurer since 1994, in the light of what they claim as the dismal failure of the Dome project.
One of about 600 members present said: "I consider it inappropriate that someone who was responsible for the Dome, one of the country's biggest financial disasters, should be responsible for my investment. It is entirely wrong and you are laying yourself open for yet another public relations disaster."
Equitable has been unable to throw off long-standing controversy over its treatment of 90,000 members with guarenteed annuities. The schemes, sold in the 1970s and 1980s, promised to pay a minimum pension worth about 11pc of the fund. Equitable cut bonus rates to cover costs resulting in a legal battle with policyholders. The case is now with the House of Lords.
Another policyholder said: "I would like to hear why Ms Page thinks she should be a director of this organisation given that the Dome, which she was closely involved with, is losing money hand over fist?"
Equitable president John Sclater first sought to deflect personal criticism from Ms Page by looking to distance her from the decision to take the Dome job. He claimed she"was strong-armed by the Government into creating the Dome", which she produced "as requested on the day".
Ms Page said: "I am a public servant and I am used to being asked to do difficult jobs. I do not believe I did anything which deserves criticism of my judgment and integrity." Despite the misgivings of some members, Ms Page is set to be re-elected after a postal ballot saw 342,000 votes in favour and just 145,000 against.
The number of favourable votes for Ms Page was significantly lower than for four fellow directors, who all received in excess of 400,000. A bid by rebel member Edward Doogan to win a seat on the board failed. He received 240,000 postal votes in favour and 246,000 against.
22 May 2000: Equitable Life tense as rebels reload their guns