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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Actuaries on trial?

The role of the actuarial profession, as well as the actions of individual members, seem likely to be subject to the minutest scrutiny in Court 76 of the Royal Courts of Justice over the next several months as the High Court tries the case brought by Equitable Life against its former auditors and directors.

Despite speculation as to a possible settlement, the case eventually opened on 11 April in front of Mr Justice Langley. If the case continues until scheduled completion towards the end of 2005, approximately a dozen actuaries will have been subject to cross-examination on matters variously of fact or of opinion. It also seems likely that the role of the profession in setting standards will loom large, and counsel has already quoted Sir Derek Morris.

Press comment suggests that this is a case neither side can afford to lose, which in some circumstances might be good reason to expect a settlement. On the other hand, commentators agree that there is a strong public interest in exploring and resolving what should be the duties of auditors, directors, and indeed actuaries in various capacities. Disciplinary proceedings by the accountancy and actuarial professions have been stayed pending this trial, and can hardly fail to be influenced by its outcome.