Alliant hits back against Aon poaching allegations

It was sued for an alleged "unlawful raid" of employees

Alliant hits back against Aon poaching allegations

Insurance News

By Gia Snape

Aon has sued Alliant and 10 former Aon employees, claiming Alliant used an “illicit playbook” to hire 26 Aon employees for its new reinsurance brokerage, Alliant Re.

In its Chicago district court claim, Aon also alleged that Alliant poached business from its top facultative reinsurance clients and obtained confidential information and trade secrets.

It’s a claim that Alliant, which levelled its own accusation that Aon is engaging in “excessive use of litigation”, has vowed to vigorously defend against.

What is in Aon’s lawsuit against Alliant?

In its filings, Aon alleged that Alliant’s conduct was aimed “to gain entry into the reinsurance market and jumpstart the launch of Alliant Re” late last month. It accused Alliant of having poached approximately 32% of its facultative reinsurance group.

“Prior to the raid, Alliant did not have a reinsurance division and did not compete in the reinsurance broking industry,” Aon said in court documents.

It was also alleged in the lawsuit that Aon’s former employees, including Alliant Re managing director and EVP Nicholas Ambriano, were “actively and openly breaching their covenants” by soliciting and servicing their former Aon clients.

Additionally, Aon accused its former staff of accessing dozens of confidential folders and files days before their exits.

Alliant responds to Aon staff poaching lawsuit allegations

Alliant is “thrilled” to welcome new talented reinsurance professionals to Alliant Re, Peter Arkley, president, retail property & casualty of Alliant, it said in response to the suit.

“While it may not please our competitors, Alliant is changing the way our clients approach risk management and benefits,” Arkley said.

Alliant vowed to “vigorously defend” against the claim in a statement provided to Insurance Business.

“Alliant has strict hiring protocols designed to ensure that new hires return all property and equipment to former employers and do not engage in any improper acquisition, use, or disclosure of confidential, proprietary, or trade secret information,” the statement read.

“Alliant instructs prospective employees to act solely on behalf of their current employer until they resign.

“Alliant will vigorously defend against Aon’s allegations concerning the departure of employees from Aon’s US facultative reinsurance group.”

The firm also hit back at Aon’s claims. It said that as it experienced “extraordinary growth” over the past decade, “competitors have sought to suppress employee mobility through the excessive use of litigation.”

“Aon has a history of filing such lawsuits. In the only two cases between the parties that have gone to trial, Alliant and its insurance professionals have prevailed,” Alliant’s statement continued.

Looking back to one such earlier case, Heffernan v Aon Risk Services Companies, Alliant said:

“Heffernan had the right to pursue any lawful employment and enterprise of his choice, which included engaging in business of the same kind as the business performed by Aon, in performing professional services for clients for whom he worked at Aon.”

Aon declined to comment.

History of poaching lawsuits against Alliant

The new case opens a fresh chapter in legal wrangling between the two firms.

In 2020, the two settled a poaching suit after a group of Aon construction brokers moved to Alliant.

In 2017, a California jury ruled in favor of Alliant and 10 insurance brokers in a suit filed by Aon, which had argued that the departure of its former employees was a “raid” as part of a conspiracy.

The case, Peter Baldwin et al v Aon Risk Services Companies et al, began after the staff left Aon’s California offices for the Newport Beach-based Alliant in 2014, and were later followed by more than 60 other Aon employees.

After an eight-week trial, the jury cleared the producers of breach of fiduciary duty, aiding and abetting fiduciary duty, breach of duty of loyalty, interference with contract and theft of trade secrets.

In Heffernan v Aon Risk Services Companies, Aon claimed its former executive, Michael Heffernan, breached restrictive covenants and statutory and common law duties, and that Alliant aided and abetted those breaches.

After Heffernan left Aon in 2016, 26 employees followed him to Alliant’s San Jose office. The California Superior Court ruled that Aon’s covenants were unenforceable.

In August 2022, another broker, Arthur J. Gallagher, sued Alliant for its alleged “corporate raid” of Gallagher’s Chicago office. The two later settled out of court.

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