Insurance chief Bright jailed for seven years

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The Independent Online

Michael Bright, the former boss of Independent Insurance, was sentenced to seven years in prison yesterday for his part in the fraud that caused the company's collapse.

In sentencing Bright, Judge Geoffrey Rivlin described him as "undoubtedly the architect, the driving force behind the fraud" that hid losses at the insurer.

Bright, 63, was sentenced at Southwark magistrates' court along with his co-defendants after a four-month trial. His former deputy managing director, Philip Condon, was sent down for three years, and Independent's ex-finance director, Dennis Lomas, received four years.

Bright denied the charges against him, blaming his staff and their fear of his fearsome management style for the hiding of tens of millions of pounds of insurance claims from the company's auditors and shareholders. Only after Tuesday's guilty verdict did his counsel say Bright was sorry for his actions.

Judge Rivlin told Bright: "The breezy manner with which, during the course of this trial, you sought to blame some of your very able and hardworking employees for dishonest practices that you yourself put in motion, has done little to indicate that you are truly sorry for what occurred."

Independent was seen as one of Britain's best-run insurers as it gained market share after it was floated in 1993. But the company's apparent success was a deceit, and in 2000 the truth about the unrecorded claims began to emerge. The collapse in confidence was so great that it went bust in 2001. More than 1,000 people lost their jobs and over half a million policyholders were left without cover.

The judge told Condon: "The fraud was not of your devising, nor were you particularly enthusiastic about it. But you foolishly felt a greater loyalty to your old friend and mentor Mr Bright than to all the many people to whom you owed a far greater debt and who badly needed your protection."

Bright was banned from being a company director for 12 years; Condon and Lomas were barred for 10 years.

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