View from City Road: Widows shows less than good sense

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The Independent Online
Scottish life companies are a conservative, careful lot and quite right, too. That's how they won their much- deserved reputation for prudence and reliability. Even so, Scottish Widows' insistence that all companies visited by their fund managers formally declare they have not given out any price- sensitive information, is over the top.

Far too many companies already view meetings with their institutional shareholders as the equivalent of an end-of-term report with the headmaster, instead of the opportunity for constructive discussion of the business with its owners. The excessively legalistic approach adopted by Scottish Widows can only add to that feeling, and risk souring relations with other fund managers.

It is also hard to see what Scottish Widows gains. The courts are hardly likely to let a fund manager off a charge of dealing on inside information simply because he can prove he asked the company not to give him any. The presence of a colleague as a witness to what was said at the meeting - the method used, with apparent success, by most other firms - would surely be a far better defence.

The Criminal Justice Act and tighter Stock Exchange guidelines have undoubtedly forced companies, and institutions, to think much more about their communications than in the old, clubbish days. Living with these regulations is hard enough without the participants making it worse.

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