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A federal court in Illinois granted Aon PLC a temporary restraining order barring Alliant Insurance Services Inc. and a group of former Aon construction brokers from soliciting the brokerage’s clients but stopped short of a broader ban.
The former Aon brokers are barred from approaching Aon clients – three of which have already moved their accounts to Alliant, according to the ruling – but Alliant cannot be barred from accepting former Aon clients that move their business of their own volition, U.S. district judge for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago Jorge Alonso ruled on Monday.
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, which was filed earlier this month, Aon had argued for full enforceability of restrictive covenants in its employment contracts with the group of brokers that resigned in October.
Aon alleged that the brokers copied files and other Aon documents to USB drives, printed out professional contacts before leaving and “furtively called upon” Aon clients to try to persuade them to move their business to Alliant in a scheme to “decimate” Aon’s construction business, court papers say.
The employment agreements the brokers had with Aon among other things barred them from “directly or indirectly, calling upon, soliciting, accepting, engaging in, servicing or performing any business of the same type performed by Aon with respect to clients that the Defendant Employees had any relationship with during the last twenty-four (24) months prior to their resignation,” the ruling states.
Under Illinois law, “while it is unclear whether a non-acceptance covenant would be enforceable, a non-solicitation covenant is,” the ruling states.
Given the instances where the former Aon brokers allegedly breached their employment agreements involved the active solicitation of Aon clients, “the Court will enter a TRO that bars soliciting business but does not bar merely accepting or servicing former clients,” the ruling states.
Commenting on the ruling, Aon said in an email: "Aon is committed to protecting the interests of our clients and our firm. We are pleased with the court’s decision enjoining our former employees from violating their client non-solicitation obligations and protecting Aon’s confidential and trade secret information from use or disclosure."
Alliant did not respond to a request for comment.
Brown & Brown Inc. on Tuesday reported first-quarter revenue of $465.1 million, up 9.6% from the previous year, bolstered in part by a $20 million legal settlement that involved employee poaching.