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Bunhill: Dodgy dealers get Stoned

ROGUE TRADER - you've read the story, you'll see the film and now you can buy the insurance policy. In response to massive demand from financial services clients, Stone Financial Risks is offering cover specifically tailored to protect companies from the individual rogues, cads or bounders who lose their employers vast sums of money.

Antony Millard, an underwriter at Stone, says standard fraud insurance products aren't up to the job because they tend to cover firms against people with their hands in the till, rather than organisations where the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. Ignorance will be no excuse with Stone's new policy because any client will have to meet strict criteria designed to ensure that no one person is responsible for front and back-office operations, or for executing and settling trades.

While Stone is in the market for new products, might I suggest a bespoke "nothing ever goes wrong" policy to guard against the non-occurrence of insurable events. Like many people I've got insurance for my building, the contents of my home and for my car - among other things - yet for the past few years no one has had the common decency to steal all my valuables, crash a plane into my roof or collide with my motor before driving off at high speed.

As a result, I pay all these premiums and I don't feel I'm getting value for money. So please, Stone, leave no stone unturned and come up with a policy on which I can make a claim if I don't have to make any claims.

I THOUGHT the X-Files had become reality last Wednesday when my attention was drawn to a down-page story on the front of the Daily Telegraph. "14,000 aliens going missing in Britain", read the strangely matter-of-fact headline, leading me to the alarming conclusion that I must have spent the previous few weeks on a ... well a different planet to have missed the news first that thousands of Martians had landed and then that they had vanished.

Sadly, this was one of the great anti-climactic stories because the "aliens" weren't members of an inter-planetary delegation but illegal asylum-seekers. I assume the space allowed for the headline was too small for the word "refugees", or perhaps "aliens" was more of a "right-thinking" description.

Either way, we on the business pages also struggle to find the right words for headlines when the number of letters that can fit into a set space don't allow us to be entirely faithful to the story.

So it's for this reason that "breakdown in financial controls" becomes "blood bath", while "asset depreciation casts cloud over ongoing viability of balance sheet" must perforce be abbreviated as "lies of serial adulterer". Naturally, we apologise for any embarrassment or inconvenience that may arise from these descriptions.

In fact, the English language was at its ambiguous best last week because another story, in the London Evening Standard, informed us that league tables of death rates were to be published to gauge the effectiveness of hospital treatment. That seemed clear enough, but much more vague was in which direction the Government wanted death rates to move because failing hospitals, the story continued, would be visited by "hit squads".

So that's how the Government intends to attack the problems in the National Health Service - it's going to shoot the patients. Is this what Tony Blair means by tough choices?