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Top lawyer tells inside story of how insurance came to Bermuda

Published author: retired lawyer Lawrence Michael Murphy (Photograph by Duncan Hall)

Retired lawyer Lawrence Michael Murphy has added another string to his bow.

Mr Murphy, AIG’s general legal counsel in Bermuda for 32 years and adviser to the Bermuda Government on the insurance industry for more than 40 years, has written a book about the development of the professional insurance business in Bermuda.

The achievement adds “author” to an already impressive resume that, aside from his professional involvements in Bermuda, includes a stint as a speechwriter and then political advance man for US vice-presidential candidate Ed Muskie in the 1960s.

Now 79, Mr Murphy has traced the history of the re/insurance business on the island, focusing on certain key, former partners of the CV Starr Group of companies and demonstrating the impact they and the CV Starr/AIG organisations had on the emergence of the industry in Bermuda.

The self-published book focuses on important players including Sir John Swan, the former Premier, as well as industry stalwarts Duncan Lee, Ernest Stempel, Kevin Kelley, Dinos Iordanou, and Brian Duperreault.

Former AIG CEO Maurice (Hank) Greenberg features prominently.

It also includes content of a more personal nature, including the investigation into AIG by Eliot Spitzer, the attorney general of New York.

The book project was launched shortly after Covid-19 began to impact the island in 2020.

Mr Murphy said: “It was the lock down and I was thinking ‘what am I going to do?’ No one had really written a good history of how this business originated here and how it grew to be what it became.”

He added: “It needed to be preserved for future generations. Young people need to understand what they have and how fortunate we are – and government needs to respect the future of this business because it matured here.

“I covered as much as I could in the book and then I put in ‘Bermuda factors’, which was designed to make it more readable for a broader audience.”

Mr Murphy said: “I think I have reached a lot of people. It’s a little complex, some chapters, but I tell people with no insurance experience ‘skip that chapter and go back to it later’.”

The book is lightened with personal anecdotes and observations.

Mr Murphy said: “I did put gossip in a bit … in a couple of places.”

The tome also includes cartoons by the late The Royal Gazette cartoonist Peter Woolcock, as well as illustrations by Wendy Frith.

Mr Murphy said: “The book is meant to be humanistic. I tried to keep numbers out of it. I wanted it to be anecdotal and humanistic to tell where people came from, what they sacrificed, and how it’s an accessible business when you put your mind to it.”

He said the reaction to the book has “all been pretty positive”.

The transplanted New Jersey native has now spent half a century on the island.

Mr Murphy embraced island life, building two boats – and, while commuting to work in Hamilton in the sailing dinghy Peapod from his former home on Hinson Island, in Hamilton Harbour, acquired the nickname “Captain Wrinkles”, which he calls in the book “the ultimate acceptance as a Bermudian into the community”.

He said: “It has been a wonderful experience living here. There was a lot of freedom to it. I wanted to do something to help them out because I had all this background, and so I always volunteered to do things for Bermuda.

“If I lived in the US, with 300 million people, I wouldn’t get to negotiate treaties with big countries. “Bermuda’s been a great place and I want to see it carry on for future generations.”

Mr Murphy has donated 22 copies of the book to the Bermuda College to be used as a teaching aid.

Starr Bridge at Flatts: the Development of the Professional Insurance Business in Bermuda is available exclusively at Bermuda Book Store, Queen Street, Hamilton

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Published November 22, 2022 at 7:50 am (Updated November 22, 2022 at 12:59 pm)

Top lawyer tells inside story of how insurance came to Bermuda

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