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Aon Consulting sues Marsh units over alleged improper data access

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Aon Consulting Inc. filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday against Marsh Inc. and Marsh & McLennan Agency L.L.C. charging the companies improperly gained access to a secure Aon website to obtain survey reports and data and used the information to provide compensation consulting services to their customers.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois based in Chicago seeks a jury trial and charges Marsh and Marsh & McLennan with “misappropriation of trade secrets, deceptive trade practices, unfair competition and tortious interference with a prospective economic advantage.”

Aon, through its San Jose, California-based Radford business unit, offers compensation data surveys to its customers, the complaint said.

The survey data is obtained from about 3,000 participating organizations. Access to the survey reports and data is restricted to participating organizations that share certain compensation data with Aon, the complaint said, and agree to certain conditions governing access to and use of the survey reports and data.

These organizations provide compensation data to Aon in exchange for having access to Aon’s survey reports and data, the complaint said. Participating organizations have access to Aon’s survey reports and data through a secure website that requires a username and password, both of which are issued by Aon.

Marsh Inc. and Marsh & McLennan Agency are competitors of Aon that offer, in part, compensation consulting services through their business unit, San Diego, California-based Barney & Barney Insurance Services. Aon alleges in the lawsuit that the rival companies improperly gained access to Aon’s secure website by using a participating organization’s username and password and then downloaded Aon’s survey reports and data or otherwise improperly obtained copies of them.

Marsh Inc. and Marsh & McLennan Agency used this information to provide compensation consulting services to their customers, the complaint said.

“As a result of defendants’ actions, Aon has suffered irreparable injury and seeks damages, a permanent injunction, costs, and attorneys’ fees as authorized by the applicable federal and state laws,” the complaint said.

On Feb. 18, 2015, Aon sent a cease-and-desist letter to Barney & Barney and the firm denied that it improperly used Aon’s survey data.

“The parties continued to discuss resolution of the dispute through correspondence concerning defendants’ complained-of activities and a potential settlement,” the complaint said. “The parties have been unable to resolve the matter.”

Aon alleges that the two companies have continued to use the misappropriated Information to provide compensation consulting services to their customers without Aon’s knowledge or authorization, at least as recently as May of this year, the complaint said.

Aon declined to comment on the lawsuit and a Marsh spokeswoman said the company does not publicly comment on legal matters.