Lloyd's may pursue names to bankruptcy

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The Independent Online
Lloyd's of London, the troubled insurance market, is finally to push ahead with previous threats and start legal proceedings on Monday against names defaulting on their debts. The action could result in the market pursuing names to bankruptcy, according to Lloyd's sources.

One said: "It is our intention that we will get a judgment against them. If successful we will need to enforce those judgments. If needs be we will bankrupt names."

Lloyd's has asked the members' agents, who manage the Lloyd's affairs of names, to come up with an initial list of litigation targets by Monday. The moves come as Lloyd's faces a huge financial crisis.

The market's Financial Review Department, responsible for collecting debts and headed by Philip Holden, has sent out confidential guidelines to members' agents on how to identify suitable targets for writs. Lloyd's has also offered to pay the legal costs incurred by agents.

Names' groups are resisting the move by Lloyd's. They are sending a letter to members' agents reminding them that names are the agents' principals and warning the agents they could be in breach of their duty of confidentiality if they comply with Lloyd's instructions.

Lloyd's is pressing agents to target a small number of names, possibly 50. The guidelines from Lloyd's list legal and commercial considerations and ask the agents "to utilise their discretion and knowledge of the individual member".

Bankrupting a name would represent a big about-turn in policy for Lloyd's. However, Christopher Stockwell, who chairs the Lloyd's Names Associations Working Party, challenged Lloyd's right to insist that agents pursue names.

"The only duty of an agent is to his principal - the name". Mr Stockwell added: "Lloyd's tactics show how desperately they need the money."

The names' working party is writing to all names to offer support if they are served with writs.

The need for fast action comes at a time when Lloyd's faces a huge cash crisis as up to 9,000 names refuse to pay their share of the £8bn of losses Lloyd's has reported to date.

Names' debts are currently believed to be about £1.2bn.

Lloyd's has threatened agents who fail to pursue names with disciplinary proceedings.

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