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QBE files poaching suit against Applied Underwriters


QBE Insurance Group Ltd. units filed suit against Applied Underwriters Inc. earlier this week in connection with Applied’s hiring of 13 people in its aviation insurance division in September.

Separately, QBE is seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against two of those former employees.

An official of Omaha, Nebraska-based Applied Underwriters labeled the litigation “plainly meritless” in a statement Wednesday.

QBE said in documents filed in state court in New York Tuesday that the 13 individuals, who comprised about one-third of QBE’s aviation insurance division,  included senior underwriters Kristina Orcutt and Kristina Mulligan; Steven Allen, QBE senior vice president and head of aviation; and Gregory Dekker, QBE vice president aviation underwriting.

A complaint for injunctive relief and damages states Mr. Allen and Mr. Dekker were subject to written employment agreements with QBE and that Applied induced the two men to breach their contractual obligations, according to QBE Americas Inc., d/b/a QBE North America vs. Kristina Orcutt, Kristina Mulligan and Applied Underwriters  Inc.

The complaint says Mr. Allen called his manager, Steven Gransbury, QBE’s head of specialty insurance, on Sept. 20, 2021, to inform him that 12 individuals on his aviation team had resigned, then later that day sent an email to the aviation division informing the group he, too, was resigning.

QBE said it learned in November that Mr. Allen had orchestrated a “poaching scheme” in coordination with his new employer, Applied. It said also that Ms. Orcutt and Ms. Mulligan had provided Applied with confidential data.

The complaint, which seeks unspecified damages, charges Applied with tortious interference against QBE and charges all defendants with misappropriation of confidential information and unfair competition. It also charges Ms. Orcutt and Ms. Mulligan with breach of loyalty. 

Separately, QBE petitioned for a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction and “expedited discovery in aid of arbitration” in a separate filing with the court, in QBE Americas, Inc. d/b/a QBE North America v. Steven Allen and Gregory Dekker.

A statement issued by Jeffrey Silver, executive vice president and general counsel at Applied, said the litigation tries “to accomplish with a nuisance suit what they could not accomplish with investment in the sector and with an effective marketing approach.”

The statement said the individuals named “elected to move to Applied Underwriters of their own volition to develop their business specialty using Applied resources” and that Applied “did not seek, did not receive, nor do we need  any of QBE’s confidential information.”

The statement also said the hiring process occurred more than 90 days ago, “making QBE’s claim of purportedly irreparable harm seem to be litigation tactic far more than a demonstrable fact.”