Lloyd's hitch for Clinton nominee

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THE NOMINATION of Stephen Breyer, President Clinton's choice for the Supreme Court, may be in trouble because, while a member of a Lloyd's syndicate hit by pollution losses, he ruled on toxic waste cases as a federal judge.

Mr Breyer has already revealed in his financial disclosure that he had dollars 250,000 to dollars 500,000 invested in the Lloyd's insurance market. As a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he has ruled on pollution liability cases and has written a book critical of the government for being over-zealous in enforcing clean-up legislation.

Documents from Lloyd's published yesterday by Newsday, the New York daily, show that Mr Breyer was a member of the Merrett 418 syndicate in 1985, a year when its actual and potential losses from American toxic waste and asbestos claims were too great for its accounts to be closed.

In the past 13 years Mr Breyer has ruled on pollution cases in the federal appeals court. Twice in cases concerning the Superfund, through which pollution claims are settled in the US, he ruled in favour of the defendants accused of pollution.

It would be deeply embarrassing for Mr Clinton if his nominee to the Supreme Court - chosen after the post was turned down by George Mitchell, the retiring Democratic leader in the Senate - met difficulties in Senate confirmation hearings next month.

Lloyd Cutler, the White House counsel, said: 'There was no case to Judge Breyer's knowledge where his syndicate or Lloyd's itself had an interest in the particular case he was deciding.'

Mr Breyer had excused himself in a number of asbestos cases where there was Lloyd's involvement, Mr Cutler said.

Mr Breyer is reported still to have a personal fortune of dollars 8m.