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Down the years, TIME has reported on the trials and tribulations of the legendary Lloyd's of London: its brush with bankruptcy, its efforts to reform and rebuild, and its battles with angry investors. Now the time has come to return to this story and to give it the space that its public importance demands. That importance has largely been ignored by our press colleagues, but we believe we have a duty to provide this full account to assist public understanding of the saga about to unfold in courtrooms in London and the U.S. Lloyd's may have been a disaster, but now the overwhelming question is whether it was a fraud--the biggest of the last century.

Our special report is the product of a painstaking investigation on both sides of the Atlantic. It tells how one of the world's most celebrated enterprises, whose watchword is "utmost good faith," now faces accusations from investors that it abused their trust and defrauded them. The London trial is scheduled to begin on Feb. 28 and Time will report its verdict--whether, or to what extent, the judge finds the investors' allegations, summarized in our article, to be established. We believe the public is entitled to understand the background to the investors' case. We have made many efforts to obtain responses from Lloyd's and its former officers but they have been reluctant to give them. We will report the defense as it unfolds in court. Hard questions will be asked and straight answers required. In an era when the issue of corporate governance has come strongly to the fore, we believe that our story raises important questions about how business is conducted in a world where the wealth of nations and the fate of individuals can be influenced, for better or worse, by the actions of powerful institutions.

For this investigation we are grateful to contributor David McClintick, an award-winning author and journalist whose last investigative story for Time Inc. was a July 1996 article in our sister publication Fortune on the battle for control of the MGM film studio. For that article McClintick won the 1997 Overseas Press Club award for reporting from abroad. A graduate of Harvard and Columbia universities, McClintick served in the intelligence branch of the U.S. Army before turning his investigative skills to journalism, notably at the Wall Street Journal. McClintick describes the Lloyd's saga as "compelling." We believe our readers will agree.

Norman Pearlstine, Editor-in-Chief

Chris Redman, Editor, TIME Atlantic