Rowland ruffled by two-pronged assault

Only two questioners from the floor ruffled David Rowland of Lloyd's, in his polished and successful handling of one of the most crucial meetings he has ever chaired, writes Peter Rodgers.

One was when a rebel Lloyds's name, Philip Colfox, made allegations about Mr Rowland's period as a director of an underwriting firm in 1981.

To supportive applause from elsewhere on the floor, Mr Rowland said he was extremely tired of Mr Colfox's allegations for which there was not the slightest scrap of evidence.

And Sir Alan Hardcastle, Lloyd's top regulator, said he had looked into documents sent by Mr Colfox and so had Lloyd's lawyers, and there was "no basis whatsoever on which it would be right to take investigations any further at all".

In sharp contrast, the other incident that slightly ruffled the urbane Mr Rowland was when a Mr Salbstein praised him to the skies, saying "one man above all deserves our thanks - David Rowland ... you deserve national honour and recognition and trust".

This honour would soon be forthcoming, he added, though he did not forecast whether it would be a knighthood or a peerage. Mr Salbstein's litany was hard to stop until Mr Rowland joked that his own wife, who was in the audience, would give him hell after hearing it.

The meeting at the concert hall was tightly organised, with high security. But there was little of the emotional drama seen three years ago at a time when losses were still mounting and Lloyd's was offering only pounds 900m compensation.

When Adam Fergusson, demanded that David Rowland, the chairman, publish the list of managing agents and others responsible for losing the names' money, Mr Rowland said: "We can't put heads on pikes in quite the way I understand you would like."

David Durant, who said he spoke for 800 ruined names with so little left that they could not pay membership subscriptions to his group, pressed for more help. "The need is desperate - this must be pushed with all speed - we all have milk bills to pay."

He asked Mr Rowland to include widows of members in a new pension scheme for the hardest hit, and Mr Rowland said imediately: "The answer is yes."

The very first questioner from the floor raised, without naming them, the intractable issue of the Vine brothers, identical twins with identical exposures to Lloyd's. It has already emerged that the twin who has paid his debts will have to contribute twice as much to the rescue as his brother, who refused.

Acknowledging the problem thrown up by the way the rescue has been structured, Mr Rowland said: "We can't square the circle but what we have sought to do as we have gained more resources has been to make it as palatable as we possibly can."

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