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EDITOR’S LETTER – Auditors don’t sign the accounts. You do.

The three were also happy that there were no contingent liabilities worth reporting in the notes to the accounts; that they had given fulsome explanation of how they abided by corporate governance rules; and that they had detailed how they were on track to fully comply with the Turnbull internal control reporting requirements.

If there was one thing they felt was worth complaining about in the annual report, it was the fact that “the year was overshadowed by adverse publicity surrounding a single issue …”

Two hundred and sixty-one days later, the business was dead in the water; The Equitable Life Assurance Society was forced to close its doors to new business on 8 December. Still able to fulfil its obligations to policy holders it was too enfeebled to take on additional obligations.

And yet, consider the apparent ease with which the directors of The Equitable “complied” with all the statutory rules and governance regulations, made all the necessary disclosures and discussed the operating and financial issues – and still somehow managed to overlook the hideous truth that there was a huge, lurking problem that could cripple the society.

God knows it is easy to be disparaging about sniping criticism, to dismiss it as ill-informed speculation, to be certain as to the righteousness of your cause – even though you have to take it all the way to the House of Lords. It’s so comforting to accept the assurances given by fee-earning professionals such as auditors and actuaries or regulators such as the DTI or the FSA.

Hey, hang on. Aren’t you late for a meeting with your auditors?

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