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Alliant hire of Willis Towers Watson construction exec sparks dispute

Alliant hire of Willis Towers Watson construction exec sparks dispute

Willis Towers Watson P.L.C. sued its former North American construction leader Sunday, charging that he breached confidentiality agreements after leaving to join rival Alliant Insurance Services Inc. last week.

In response to the suit, Alliant said it takes “extraordinary precautions” to ensure that new hires do not disclose confidential or proprietary information from competitors when they join the brokerage.

In Willis Towers Watson P.L.C. v. William Noonan, the brokerage charges that Atlanta-based Mr. Noonan resigned as “part of a destructive, premeditated corporate raid” by Alliant that resulted in nine other resignations by Willis Towers Watson construction brokerage employees. Another 15 Willis Towers Watson employees were targeted by Alliant, the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New York says.

In the months leading up to his resignation, Mr. Noonan forwarded confidential information relating to Willis Towers Watson’s construction business to his personal email accounts and since resigning   contacted at least two of the brokerage’s construction clients to solicit their business, the lawsuit charges. The actions breach confidentiality agreements included in compensation agreements Mr. Noonan signed with Willis Towers Watson, the brokerage charges.

Newport Beach, California-based Alliant announced Mr. Noonan’s appointment as managing director, construction services group last Friday.

According to the Willis Towers Watson lawsuit, information found in Mr. Noonan’s company email account indicated that Alliant would pay him a salary of $500,000, a signing bonus of $350,000 and the potential to earn a bonus of $200,000 in each of the second, third and fourth year of his employment with the brokerage.

Mr. Noonan, a former construction industry risk manager, was hired in April 2015 by Willis Insurance Services of Georgia Inc. as regional practice leader, the complaint said, and was national practice leader for the brokerage’s construction insurance practice when he resigned.

“By virtue of his position, Noonan was provided with confidential and trade secret information, and he was given the resources necessary to do his job and to develop and nurture client relationships with new, existing, and potential clients, including office support, marketing support, computer systems, administrative and clerical support, and research, travel, and expense reimbursement,” the complaint said.

As a result of Mr. Noonan’s alleged breach of confidentiality agreements, Willis Towers Watson “has suffered and will continue to suffer extensive irreparable injury, loss of goodwill, harm to the (construction insurance practice) business of its operating companies, and other injury and damages for which there is no adequate remedy at all,” the complaint says.

In the lawsuit, Willis Towers Watson is seeking unspecified damages and a preliminary injunction restraining Mr. Noonan from directly or indirectly: disclosing confidential information to Alliant, using confidential information on behalf of Alliant, soliciting business from “relevant” clients and prospects for two years and recruiting key Willis Towers Watson employees for two years.

In an emailed statement Wednesday, Alliant said: “With new hires, we take extraordinary precautions to ensure that no proprietary or confidential information is taken from competitors or disclosed to Alliant.”

The brokerage added: “Our business is about people, trust, and lasting client relationships – so in the hiring process we have strict protocols that we follow and that we require new hires to follow – including multilevel screening and information technology measures – so that no confidential or proprietary information, if any, is taken from competitors.”