The Insider heckles the FSA, envies Lord Levene and wonders what went wrong at the CII

The boys at Marsh used to be famed for their corporate hospitality in the days before Eliot Spitzer and his little investigation. Still, I hear they’re getting back into the swing of things, credit crunch or not. A friend of mine was treated to a swish day of racing at Ascot last month, complete with lashings of smoked salmon and gallons of fine wines. It must be nice to have ridden out your own crisis and be able to watch in comfort while the chaos swirls around you. If the AIG gang get a little restless, what with having nothing to do and no corporate hospitality to enjoy (and a happy new year to you too, US Treasury), perhaps old Martin South could take them out for a few beers?

Mistaken identities and nights in Dubai

My old pal Robert Hiscox has been up to his tricks again. Hiscox, who is well known for being outspoken, to put it mildly, penned a letter to the FSA in fury when one of its directors publicly criticised the “insurance” industry – meaning life insurance. Hiscox reckons that life insurers are a bunch of hooligans who would be better off calling themselves the assurance industry – or even the savings industry – and not tainting the good name of general insurance. I couldn’t agree more – let’s hope the FSA took note.

Nice work if you can get it

The week before Christmas is a great time to bury news. So it was interesting that Lloyd’s released a statement about the future of its chairman Lord Levene shortly before Christmas. Now most of us know he’s on a pretty good gig – travelling the world, being chauffeur-driven around the City and dining with the powers-that-be in Westminster, as well as overseeing the reform of the great insurance institution. But many of us also know that his tenure in the Lloyd’s chair should have ended last year. Well, so says the Lloyd’s constitution, at any rate. It’s just that Lloyd’s has tweaked its constitution so Levene can stay on for a few more years. Now that’s democracy in action ...

Lyndon Wood: big fish in Middle East

My pal Lyndon Wood, who founded Moorhouse in his back bedroom when he was just a lad, has come a long, long way. All the way to Dubai in fact. He was spotted at the recently opened Atlantis Hotel last week, where a suite can cost £13,000 a night. I spend many an evening there, of course, but seldom bump into any of my broker friends. Hopefully Lyndon enjoyed the hotel’s giant aquarium with stingrays, sharks and – what else – a whale.

Going under

When the CII announced a merger with its Australian counterpart last year, there was great fanfare. My friends at Insurance Times were hauled into the office, where they were told the CII was “extremely confident” the merger would garner the support it needed from members and go ahead. So imagine their surprise when it was suddenly announced in the deathly quiet before Christmas that the merger had fallen through. And why? Because the CII had just found out that its proposed partner wasn’t making any money. Oops.

I love a mystery

Two of the grand old men of insurance, Peter Cullum and Tom Duggan, have been very explicitly linked with Neil Utley’s MBO of Hastings and Advantage. But both Cullum and Duggan have been strangely mysterious about their involvement. A spokesman for Towergate said he did not know whether Cullum had been involved – and Duggan himself said he wasn’t sure! Could Cullum be worried about Towergate’s bankers demanding that he stump up some of his riches for that highly-leveraged business, too?