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EPIC launches Pittsburgh office amid noncompete fight

Posted On: Oct. 18, 2017 1:14 PM CST

EPIC Insurance Brokers and Consultants, said Wednesday it was opening an office in Pittsburgh with a group of former Wells Fargo Insurance Services USA Inc. brokers who are subject to noncompete litigation between the brokerages.

EPIC said in a statement that “this group of seasoned insurance professionals joins EPIC from Wells Fargo Insurance Services in Pittsburgh, where they practiced together for more than 10 years.”

San Francisco-based EPIC said the team will serve a wide range of industries, with a particular emphasis on construction and design firms, law firms and the healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, non-profit, service and technology industries. They will also specialize “in the unique needs of private equity firms and their portfolio companies.”

The group of former Wells Fargo staff who have joined EPIC include: Sean Andreas, Al Dragotto, Kurt Karstens, Pete Kostorick, Sally Krauss, Zach Mendelson, Phil Wakim, Chuck Yorio and Jan Zewe, according to the EPIC statement.

Wells Fargo, which recently sold its insurance brokerage operations to USI Insurance Services L.L.C., had filed a complaint in federal court, charging that their former employees had conspired with EPIC to raid Wells Fargo and open the new office in Pittsburgh. All the former employees listed in the EPIC statement except Mr. Dragotto were named in the suit. 

Wells Fargo, which declined to comment on the litigation, charged that the defendants and EPIC hired roughly 25% of its Pittsburgh employees who served over $4 million in client revenue.

Among other things, Wells Fargo was seeking to stop the defendants for soliciting any remaining Wells Fargo employees from leaving the company for two years and to keep them from violating the terms of their respective employment agreements for the same period of time.

In response, the eight former Wells Fargo employees filed a motion to dismiss the case, saying after Wells Fargo agreed to sell its entire commercial insurance business to USI, Wells Fargo “no longer possesses the substantive right to enforce the terms of the individual defendants’ restrictive covenants.” 

An EPIC spokesman said in an email Wednesday that Wells Fargo had dismissed one lawsuit it had filed, after the U. S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania refused to issue a temporary restraining order on October 12, and then one day later filed a second lawsuit in Pennsylvania state court with a different judge. 

The spokesman said that without giving EPIC notice, Wells Fargo tried to get an emergency temporary restraining order barring EPIC from accepting business from Pittsburgh-based customers of Wells Fargo. 

The court refused to grant that order but instead made an interim ruling that, while the former Wells Fargo employees could not solicit business of Wells Fargo, they could accept business from Wells Fargo clients who chose to follow their Pittsburgh insurance professionals in their move to EPIC.

“EPIC has not challenged this ruling at the (temporary restraining order) stage because there has been no solicitation of former Wells Fargo clients to transition their business to EPIC's new Pittsburgh office,” the spokesman said.