Not such a Bright idea

Cheats, cheats never beat. Following in the fraudulent footsteps of Conrad Black, Michael Bright today became the latest high-profile businessman to learn this lesson the hard way. He will have plenty of time to stew over his fall from grace – up to seven years at Her Majesty’s pleasure.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010
And it’s quite a fall. Bright, the founder and former chief exec of Independent Insurance – at one stage Britain’s biggest insurance company – was once held up as an example for his business prowess. Meanwhile his company, worth $1bn at its peak in 2000, was turning into one of the country’s ‘worst commercial disasters’, with Bright and fellow executives hiding its losses to protect their own well-paid positions. 

The ruse was one of the most comprehensive cover-ups ever seen in the City. Over several years Bright, along with his FD and MD, conspired to defraud fellow ‘directors, employees, actuaries, auditors, re-insurers, shareholders, policyholders and others by deliberately withholding claims data’. It just shows the damage that can be done by corporate fraud, despite how victimless it may seem to the protagonists; the company finally collapsed in 2001 with thousands of job losses and an estimated £1bn chasm in its accounts. The Financial Services Authority has since paid out more than £350 million in compensation to customers left without cover.

Bright wept as he insisted he had done his job openly, honestly and to the best of his ability. In fact he was found to have been ‘arrogant, overbearing, domineering’ – and dishonest. And execs wonder why they now spend half their time ticking the boxes of corporate governance?

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