Sir Richard Scott's ruling that Equitable Life's directors acted lawfully when setting discretionary payouts may be good law, but it is not necessarily good for policy holders or the insurance business.
Scott found that the directors had acted within their powers but pointed out that Equitable Life had done little to tell policyholders of the changes to the bonuses – ironic when Equitable Life is recognised as one of the more open of insurance companies.
The policyholders, many of them professionals such as accountants, doctors and lawyers, would agree, and question whether just because the directors acted lawfully means that they acted properly. One commented: "Equitable is sacrificing old policyholders for future business."
This begs the question, what, then is the point of being a mutual?
The fact that Equitable Life had to fight its policy holders in the first place makes the whole point of mutual status redundant.The policyholders may have lost in court but Equitable Life may find that it has won a Pyrrhic victory. Its professional customers may well vote with their feet and take their business elsewhere.