Nathan Skinner reports on a lively week at the Independent Insurance trial

Debate raged over the level of Independent’s claims reserving in Southwark Crown Court this week.

The jury of eight men and four women listened attentively to evidence from two prosecution witnesses and cross examination by the defence.

Both camps had the opportunity to probe former Indie manager Stuart Pettet over the course of the week. He responded helpfully to questions from prosecutor Andrew Baillie QC and denounced Michael Bright’s claims handling techniques.

In notes shown to the jury, Baillie did his best to prove that the defendants deliberately withheld claims information from the company’s computer systems and falsely inflated the value of reserves.

“Nothing could possibly justify withholding data from [actuary] Watson Wyatt,” he said.

During cross examination, Pettet was cautious, often deflecting questions or asking for clarification. On one occasion he even blamed the defence counsel for not taking into account the complexity of Independent’s business.

Defence counsel Ian Winter QC—whose lively delivery contrasted from Baillie’s patient tones as much as the pair’s legal arguments differed—argued there was nothing inherently fraudulent about Independent’s claims handling techniques.

Meanwhile, Bright’s casual courtroom slouch was briefly disturbed when it emerged that he’d had a “blazing row” with Pettet over the level of reserving which had forced the chairman into issuing a profit warning.

A second prosecution witness was called to the stand on Monday. Michael Watts, another former manager at Independent, confirmed that Bright was concerned about over-reserving but added that various audits and procedures at the time suggested that over-reserving was not taking place.

The trial continues.