Equitable Life legal bill reaches £2.5m

Equitable Life has had to pay out £2.5m in legal fees for the recent pensions test case which ended its mutuality.

The legal battle has spanned 18 months and was advised by Denton Hall, now Denton Wilde Sapte.

The test case, brought against Equitable Life when policyholders challenged its decision to lower guaranteed annuity rate bonuses on certain pensions, will cost it an estimated £1.5bn in payouts to customers.

The legal bills covers two top firms, two teams of highly rated counsels and three of the country’s leading silks. This is because as a test case Equitable Life has had to pay for both sides.

Norton Rose and Jonathan Sumption QC acted for the policyholders, symbolically led by claimant David Hyman, while Denton Hall was brought in to defend Equitable Life, with team counsel Lord Anthony Grabiner QC. Grabiner later handed over the reins to Elizabeth Gloster QC.

Equitable Life communications manager Nigel Webb says: “We paid both sides. When you go to the High Court, Court of Appeal and House of Lords it’s inevitably going to be expensive.”

He adds: “[Norton Rose and David Hyman] had the choice of selecting their own lawyers and we were going to pay for it. So it was up to them to decide where they went and given that we were funding it I suppose they’re not necessarily going to go for the cheapest – and why should they?”