"A BBC investigation has found evidence that some local authorities in England and Wales may have allowed fear of losing insurance cover to alter their approach to child abuse inquiries.... An ex social services chief called the behaviour of one company "disgusting".
"The Association of British Insurers said the investigation "raised a number of serious matters".
When Colin Lambert, then leader of Rochdale Council, proposed an investigation last year into a possible cover-up of child abuse in the town, he was shocked by a response from council officers.
Former pupils at the Knowl View special school for boys have alleged they were victims of sexual assaults by Rochdale's former MP, the late Cyril Smith and others, in the 1970s, '80s, and early '90s.
Mr Lambert says he was told an inquiry could lead to problems with the council's insurers.
"I can recall a conversation with officers that this could lead to the insurers withdrawing cover," he says. "Holding an actual open inquiry would expose exactly who did know what - and therefore the council probably would have been liable. And that then opens up the insurers to claims."
"He continued to press for an inquiry - which has now been instituted.
The council has not denied Mr Lambert's account of the conversation about insurance - though it says it "would not be influenced by any pressure, perceived or actual, to either withhold or evidence or not to carry out a full and thorough investigation."
The File on 4 investigation has found other cases across Britain, over many years, in which councils have expressed concern over the danger of losing insurance cover - and some in which insurers have attempted to suppress information about abuse allegations.
Tim Hulbert, former director of social services in Bedfordshire, says insurers "instructed" him on what to do when he was helping set up an inquiry into alleged child abuse at a children's home in the early 1990s.
He said: "I had a phone call from the insurers who were anxious to influence the terms of reference of the inquiry, so they didn't actually produce circumstances which would increase the likelihood of claims.