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Aon, Alliant battle again in broker poaching suit

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Aon, Alliant battle again in broker poaching suit

Alliant Insurance Services Inc. said Monday it will “vigorously defend” a suit filed by rival Aon PLC last week accusing Alliant and a group of former Aon construction brokers of targeting Aon clients in breach of nonsolicitation agreements.

In the suit filed Nov. 5 in federal court in Chicago, Aon alleges the latest poaching raid by Alliant is part of pattern by the Newport Beach, California-based brokerage of poaching teams of brokers from rivals to grow its business.

In a statement in response to the Aon suit, Alliant said it had successfully defended similar allegations in cases involving other former Aon employees in California.

In Aon Risk Services Cos. Inc., Aon PLC and Aon Group Inc. v. Alliant Insurance Services Inc., Tara Brusek, James Janic, Thomas Lubas, Danielle Ross, Jamie Taylor, Joshua Vick and Matthew Walsh, Aon charges “Alliant is presently engaged in a corporate raid on Aon’s officers, employees, and clients, achieved by their orchestrating of a targeted exodus of key employees and officers from Aon’s Construction Services Group, specifically the Chicago office.”

According to the complaint, in the two weeks prior to the suit being filed, Aon lost two clients, one of which had been an Aon client for more than 20 years, that accounted for more than $1 million in annual revenue.

“Aon has direct evidence that one of the former employees, Taylor, is currently servicing this same client, in plain breach of her post-employment restrictive covenants with Aon,” court papers say.

The group of former employees resigned from Aon during the week of Oct. 21, the complaint said. The employees had received years of training, mentorship and client introductions, Aon charges in the complaint.

“With the assistance and encouragement of Alliant, these former employees immediately embarked on or threatened to embark on an organized scheme to decimate Aon’s CSG business, in breach of their contractual commitments and other legal obligations to Aon,” court papers say.

Among other things, the employees copied client flies and other Aon documents to USB drives, printed out professional contacts before leaving and “furtively called upon” Aon clients to try and persuade them to move their business to Alliant, court papers say.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, it is Alliant’s modus operandi to grow its business not through lawful, legitimate means, but by poaching groups of employees from its direct competitors,” Aon states in the complaint, which lists lawsuits other brokerages have filed against Alliant in the past three years, including Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., Hays Companies, Marsh LLC, USI Insurance Services LLC and Willis Towers Watson PLC.

Nonsolicitation and noncompete agreements vary widely by state, with some states such as California making them difficult to enforce.

In at least one of the past cases, Aon won a temporary restraining order against former employees in Illinois, the complaint states.

In its statement, Alliant says it won past court fights with Aon in California, including a jury trial.

A spokesman for Aon declined to comment.