Fat Cats & British Insurers
On June 9, 2009, UK asbestos victims' groups mounted a lively demonstration outside the London venue where the Association of British Insurers (ABI) was holding its biennial conference. The protestors highlighted the injustice meted out to asbestos victims, many of whom are denied compensation due to the inability to trace Employers' Liability (EL) insurance policies.
Demonstrators dressed in fat-cat costumes sported big cigars and magnums of champagne to draw attention to the high life enjoyed by the insurers who continue to profit at the expense of the asbestos-injured.
Organizer Tony Whitston, Chair of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum (the Forum), called on the ABI to support the establishment of an insurance fund of last resort:
There is an overwhelming case for insurers to fund compensation where insurance premiums cannot be traced. If motor traffic victims are compensated for the flagrant law breaking of non-insured drivers, there is no reason why dying asbestos victims should not be compensated where premiums, which have been bought and paid for, simply cannot be traced. Insurers are getting away with murder.
As there is no central database which records EL policies and as the ABI insurance tracing scheme for post-1972 EL policies has proved to be a dismal failure, with a success rate of only 39%, insurers continue to evade their responsibilities. In a letter handed to Nick Starling, the ABI's Director of General Insurance and Health, on the day of the demonstration, the insurers' claim that we do take the plight of mesothelioma sufferers very seriously was discounted by the Forum:
your members are evading their liability to pay compensation for insurance they were most certainly paid for. Hiding behind the institutional failure to centrally record EL policies, and demanding policies that have been lost and will never be found, your members are saving millions of pounds at the expense of dying asbestos victims. Not only are asbestos victims cheated, but, in some instances, policy holders are cheated as well.1
June 19, 2009
1 Letter by Tony Whitston, Chair of the Forum, to Stephen Hadrill, Director General of the ABI. June 9, 2009.