For Whom the Bell Tolls: The Lessons of Lloyds of London

Jonathan Mantle, Author
Jonathan Mantle, Author Trafalgar Square Publishing $29.95 (369p) ISBN 978-1-85619-152-4
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In this vivid expose, the British biographer of novelist/politician Jeffrey Archer and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber considers 20th-century developments that led to the 300-year-old insurance and blue-chip investment empire's current crisis. Long known for handsome returns to its members, many of whom were Americans, Lloyd's was traditionally run as an exclusive, secretive gentlemen's club: working through agents, syndicates of underwriters and brokers, it was protected from lawsuits by royal and parliamentary favor. The company's activities spanned the globe, and for many years it seemed ``not only a Great British institution, but a uniquely easy way to make money.'' But by the 1960s, the author states, a ``time-bomb'' had started ticking, in the form of inflated membership, lack of self-regulation, unwise underwriting and fraudulent market practices that resulted by the late 1980s in losses in the billions that threatened Lloyd's very existence. Today, a leaner, more carefully regulated company looks to the future; in the author's view, ``the old club had to die.'' ( June )
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