Tory MPs seek help for losing Lloyd's investors

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Indy Politics
CONSERVATIVE MPs are planning to revive pressure on the Government and Lloyd's of London to help thousands of insurance market investors facing bankruptcy after high losses.

Attention is focused on thousands of letters that were sent out earlier this month to investors, or 'names', giving them 28 days to settle their losses.

So far, Lloyd's has taken High Court legal action against only 172 names - with the ultimate threat of bankruptcy. But some Conservative MPs are concerned that thousands more are moving inexorably into the same process.

Defences against High Court action are being organised by a number of groups, including the Writs Response Group whose co-chairman, Richard Platts, said yesterday that their first aim was to avert the risk of summary judgement against defendants, opening the way for the bailiffs.

'The idea of pursuing about 2,000 people through the courts would be a daunting prospect for Lloyd's,' Mr Platts said. 'They don't know who's got money, and who's skint.'

Some Conservative MPs are hoping to exploit the vulnerability exposed by the Government over pit closures to push the case for Lloyd's action.

But there has been distinct public and media antipathy towards the plight of Lloyd's names, regarded by most as well-heeled gamblers who took a risk and lost.

The loss-makers counter that July's Walker report found that standards of care and diligence by a number of unnamed market insiders had fallen 'materially below best practice', and that there had been an 'unattractive appearance' of brokers and managing agents giving themselves a better deal than outsiders.

A Channel 4 programme in the Greed and Glory series, to be broadcast tomorrow, alleges that David Coleridge, the outgoing Lloyd's chairman, was a member of two 'baby', or restricted membership syndicates in the 1980s.

A previous programme in the series said Mr Coleridge had been a member of one 'baby' - syndicate 973. Mr Coleridge told the programme: 'I can quite see that if you get six or seven people, or even 50 people, on a syndicate which is not open to obviously large numbers, it is inevitable that it will be considered there must be something special about it.'

Tomorrow's programme, Major Offenders, alleges that Mr Coleridge was a member of another 'baby' - marine syndicate 207 - one of the most profitable in the market up to 1984 when 'babies' were banned by Lloyd's.

Mr Coleridge was chairman of Sturge Holdings plc, and syndicate 207 was run by RW Sturge & Co. The syndicate included Susan Coleridge; Mr Coleridge's business partner, Ralph Rokeby Johnson; Caecilia Rokeby Johnson; and Nicholas Edwards, a director of AL Sturge (Holdings) Ltd before he became Secretary of State for Wales in 1979.

In tomorrow's programme, Michael Baxter, a member of 207 and an underwriter with Mr Coleridge's firm between 1973 and 1983, said the syndicate was 'only put on what I would call, well, quality business', and that its members, 'I believe, were mostly within the company or associated, closely associated with the company in some way . . . the idea was that this would perhaps be the gilt on the gingerbread of the rest of the underwriting'.

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