Alliant Scores One in Aon Poaching Battle

NU Online News Service, Feb. 22, 12:24 p.m. EST

Alliant Insurance Services, Inc. won a victory in New York State Supreme Court when a judge ruled the insurance-brokerage firm did not violate an order barring former Aon employees from soliciting business on behalf of the firm.

In a decision handed down on Friday, Judge Bernard J. Fried, sitting in Manhattan, ruled that Newport Beach, Calif.-based Alliant did not violate his non-solicitation order when the firm invited Aon clients to a construction industry event earlier this year.

In his opinion, Fried ruled that the invitation was not sent by former Aon employees who are covered by the non-compete agreement.

Alliant says the ruling clarifies the scope of the judge’s previous Dec. 20, 2011 decision where he barred certain employees and Alliant from soliciting Aon business.

“We are pleased that the court has rejected Aon’s efforts to improperly expand the injunction beyond what Justice Fried previously ruled,” says Jeffrey S. Klein, lead counsel for Alliant and chair of the employment litigation practice at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. “[The] ruling helps to clarify the limited scope of the injunction and will hopefully correct some of the confusion in the marketplace.”

In his ruling, Fried says the only clients that are off-limits are those clients that “during a 24-month period from June 13, 2009 to June 13, 2011 worked with or were produced by a current employee of Alliant [which is Michael Cusack, a former Aon senior vice president and managing director] who (1) previously worked for Aon Northeast; (2) had a restrictive covenant; and (3) resigned on June 13, 2011.”

The invitation list, Fried says, contained no clients covered by the restrictions. According to the decision, there are 46 accounts that Cusack worked while at Aon that would be covered by his order.

Aon is suing Alliant for poaching its Construction Services Group of employees and clients. On the day that Cusack and Peter Arkley, former CEO of Aon Construction Services Group, departed, 15 Aon clients moved their business to Alliant, and 38 employees in the group left to join Alliant.

The judge previously ruled that Aon is likely to prevail in its claims over breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, conspiracy, breach of the duty of loyalty, intentional interference with contractual relations and tortuous interference with prospective economic advantage.

In response to Judge Fried’s ruling, Aon spokesman David Prosperi says by e-mail, “Both parties are pursuing their respective rights, and we look forward to pursuing a favorable outcome for Aon.”

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