Names up in arms as Lloyd's sends out writs

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Dissident names reacted with fury yesterday to writs issued by Lloyd's of London in the insurance market's drive to recoup a total of pounds 500m in unpaid bills.

"I'm absolutely and completely incensed and enraged," said Sally Noel yesterday, after receiving a demand for pounds 297,000 from Lloyd's.

Lloyd's is seeking to recover money from around 1,800 names who have refused to accept Lloyds's pounds 3.2bn compensation deal for losses incurred by the market in recent years. Altogether 127 individuals have received a total of 207 writs under the Lloyd's debt collection programme. Some face two separate demands, one for central fund debt and another for general losses.

David Harris, a leader of the newly formed dissident investors' group, the United Names Organisation (UNO), has received two writs, which together total a "six-figure sum".

"UNO has been set up with the specific intention of defending names against these writs. Now we can lodge our defence and go in with a counterclaim," Mr Harris said.

As for his own writ, he said: "These are crazy figures, they haven't been audited, they are all wrong. They have just been plucked almost out of the air."

Mr Harris said he had heard several names had been served with writs demanding more than pounds 1m.

Mrs Noel, co-chairman of UNO, was "very angry" when she received her writ: "How dare Mr Rowland [chairman of Lloyd's] serve me a writ. I'm innocent. I've never been guilty of not paying a debt in my life. I'm going to be cutting it [the writ] up. I will fight Mr Rowland to the death."

Sue Dingwall, a partner with solicitors Dibb Lupton Alsop, is part of the Lloyd's debt collection team which sent out the writs. She said yesterday: "This is a rolling process. We have started with UK names. Next week we will continue with other UK and overseas names. We hope to have our first judgement before Christmas."

Lloyd's sent warning letters at the beginning of the month to those about to receive writs. Many had then written back to Dibb Lupton, Lloyd's or their agents, seeking a resolution, she said. According to Lloyd's, about 60 dissidents have sought talks after receiving the letters.

A "proportion" had paid up, said Ms Dingwall, one being a payment for pounds 59,000. Mr Harris said he heard of some people paying up when faced with a writ. "These are frightening tactics by Lloyd's," he said.

Mrs Noel said that those who had signed up to the Lloyd's restructuring had abandoned their rights to legal redress. She said that in two years' time if Equitas, the vehicle for Lloyds's past claims, was insolvent "as I'm sure it will be", they would regret signing.

"These crippling demands will drive more people to suicide," she said.

Catherine MacKenzie Smith, another official of UNO, said that names receiving writs should contact UNO. "We are passing these writs on directly to our solicitor, David Freman, and our two QCs."