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Paul G. Philo, director and chief underwriting officer of Sphere Drake Holdings Ltd., has left the company after 20 years of service. The decision to cut the senior position reflects the reduction in Sphere Drake's lines

of business over the past year,

a spokesman for the company said. Mr. Philo was the last of the senior executives at Sphere Drake who had been with the company since it was owned by Alexander & Alexander Services Inc. in the 1980s. Ian Dean, the former chief executive officer resigned abruptly in December 1995 (BI, Jan. 1). . . .U.K. insurance companies that take charge of and fund a policyholder's legal defense to protect their own interests risk being forced to pay the plaintiffs' costs over and above any policy limit if the policyholder loses the case. An appellate court has ruled that Sun Alliance Insurance Group P.L.C., now part of Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Group P.L.C., must pay legal costs of more than 250,000 pounds ($398,375) on top of its 1 million pounds ($1.6 million) policy limit on a household contents policy after the policyholder's son caused a fire at a factory where he was a temporary worker. Sun Alliance plans to petition the House of Lords to overturn the ruling. . . .Lloyd's of London broker and financial services group Swire Blanch Ltd. has opened an office in Dallas to market products in the United States, specializing initially in bloodstock and contingency. Swire Blanch is jointly owned by E.W. Blanch Holdings Inc., a Minneapolis-based reinsurance and wholesale intermediary, and the diversified Swire Group of Hong Kong

. . . .Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's Corp. has raised its counterparty credit and claims-paying ability ratings of General Accident Fire & Life Assurance Corp. P.L.C. to AA fromAA-. S&P also assigned its AA counterparty credit and claims-paying ability ratings to the other core entities of the General Accident group of companies, including General Accident Insurance Co. of America. . . .S&P has also assigned its AA- claims-paying ability rating to SPS Reassurance S.A., a newly re-established unit of France's largest insurance group, AXA-UAP. The rating reflects explicit support from its immediate parent, AXA Re S.A., in respect of SPS Re's policyholder obligations and that fact that AXA Re is "a well-managed, technically competent and leading force" in international reinsurance. . . .The U.K. Health and Safety Executive says preliminary railway safety statistics for the year to March 31, 1997, show that the 25 fatalities for the period were down three compared with the previous year and the lowest on record. The two fatalities of railway employees also marked a record low. The main statistic used to measure railway safety, "significant" train accidents, was 105, compared with 104 the previous year and 151 two years ago. . . .Tony Nunn, one of the best-known figures in the London marine insurance market for almost 50 years, retired on Aug. 15 as governmental and international affairs adviser to the Institute of London Underwriters. Mr. Nunn held this post since 1992, when he retired from active underwriting. . . .Robert Kiln, founder of Lloyd's of London underwriting agency R.J. Kiln & Co. Ltd., died Aug. 16. He was 77. He had been an underwriter on Lloyd's syndicates 510 and a member of the Committee of Lloyd's from 1971 to 1981.