Profit commissions at odds with broker's 2004 pledge

Willis is accepting contingent commissions from insurers despite claiming to have banned them last year.

According to a senior London market source, profit commissions are still being paid to Willis subsidiaries with binding authorities.

The source said: "Willis has said it will take them in certain circumstances where it has a binding authority and clearly do something for the insurer concerned."

This apparently flies in the face of public statements by the company last year when chairman and chief executive Joe Plumeri announced a Client Bill of Rights in which it would be "abolishing [contingent commissions] at Willis in response to client concerns".

At the time the company said it would discontinue contingency agreements in North America immediately and in the rest of the world by the end of 2004. The move was in response to New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer's probe into insurance market practices, it said.

The source said: "Willis has said no to contingent commissions. These payments are different to their public utterances."

Another market source said: "The international brokers have profit streams to protect. To say profit commissions are not contingent commissions would be contrary to the spirit if not the word of their Bill of Rights."

A spokesman for Willis said: "Where there is a legitimate service, where we perform functions for carriers that are outside profit and volume contingent commission arrangements, such as claims handling and binding authorities, we expect to be paid."

He said any payments were transparent to clients.