The mutual insurer LV= has disregarded the interests of its members by moving to sell up to a private equity investor without properly consulting them, according to a parliamentary report with cross-party backing.
LV=, a life insurer originally known as Liverpool Victoria, was founded in 1843 to allow Liverpool’s poor to cover burial costs. However, in December it said it would sell itself to Bain Capital in a £530m deal that would see it abandon its status as a mutual owned by its member-customers.
MPs and lords on the all-party parliamentary group of mutuals have endorsed findings that LV= and Bain have not been open or transparent about their intentions for the company.
The report also said that LV= had shown a “cavalier attitude” on governance by not properly informing its members. It also said executives may “benefit from enhanced remuneration” if Bain tries to increase profits.
The insurer argues that the deal will allow it to raise money more easily to pursue growth opportunities in the insurance market, after it reached the limits of debt it is allowed. It sold its car and home insurance brand to Allianz in 2019.
The firm’s 1.3 million members will qualify for a cash payout if they vote in favour of the deal.
However, the report argued that LV= had made it very difficult for members to assess the deal, and added that demutualisation would damage the diversity of the UK’s financial services.
The report gained the backing of MPs from Labour and the Conservatives, including Steve Baker, who served as a minister in Theresa May’s government.
Gareth Thomas, Labour’s shadow minister for international trade and chair of the group, said MPs were “dismayed” by the firm’s move to demutualise, describing it as “unnecessary, rushed and ill-advised”.
“It is perverse that at a time when mutuality is growing in other parts of the world that this course is being chosen by the UK’s second largest mutual insurer,” he said.
In a statement, LV= said it was “disappointed” with the report, and that the Bain deal was “solely driven by the long-term interests” of members.
LV= said it will send its members reports from an independent expert and an actuary before they vote on the deal. Without the deal the need to invest would impact on members’ returns, it said.
The company said: “We have been clear that the business, while well capitalised, requires significant further investment to compete in an increasingly competitive market.”
Bain said the deal would “strengthen LV=’s financial position and provide significant value to its members”.