Miller Fisher group has been rocked by a mass defection from its claims investigation branch as it entered delicate talks with a potential buyer this week.

The company suffered a pre-tax loss of £1.5m for the first six months of 2000, confirming earlier profit warnings, and also lost a large contract with Motor and Legal Group. It issued a statement to the stock exchange, saying it was in talks with a potential buyer, not believed to be a loss adjusting group.

Eight senior members of Miller Fisher's motor fraud investigation division this week resigned and joined a new venture set up by Colin Farley, a former director of its loss adjusting company Miller Pycraft.

Farley's company CFA Solutions has taken offices within a stone's throw of Miller Fisher's existing Maidstone branch and is preparing to recruit additional staff.

One senior Miller Fisher employee said morale in the investigations division has recently suffered: “A number of people have for some time been considering leaving Miller Fisher group because they have felt uncomfortable with its large programme of staff cutbacks and office closures.”

Bev Fitzgerald, chief executive of Miller Fisher's UK adjusting and inspection operations, contested claims that his staff were disaffected.

He put a brave face on the loss: “We don't like it when any number of people leave us, it is a shame, but it's not a terminal issue and we wish them well.”

He stressed the defections should be placed in perspective: “We worry about any competition, but we still have 80 people working in our claims investigation division in Manchester and Maidstone.”

Fitzgerald dismissed speculations that Miller Fisher was about to announce the closure of its fraud investigation office in Maidstone as simply untrue. The company closed its loss adjusting service centre in Maidstone in January, transferring staff to Croydon without any job losses.

But despite this, Fitzgerald said Miller Fisher remained committed to maintaining its current presence in the Kent town.

CFA Solutions is the brainchild of directors Colin Farley, David Worby and Peter Chapman who left Miller Fisher group last year.

Worby and Chapman were senior managers of Miller Fisher's motor engineering division Miller Sheppard and the company has financial backing from medical litigation specialists Pims.
Farley said: “The company offers an opportunity to investigate in the way we have always wanted – in a professional manner and in the spirit of new technology.”

He added: “We will consider applications from anyone who wants to join us.”

CFA Solutions comprises two divisions: a motor accident and theft investigation branch called Farleys Claims Solutions and a motor inspection company called Automotive Inspection Management.

Helen Wareham, chief operating officer of loss adjuster Ashworth Mairs Group, issued the following statement: “While our main board has an avowed intention to make strategic acqusitions rather than mergers in the coming three years, there is no foundation to the current rumours concerning Ashworth Mairs Group and Miller Fisher.