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A Pennsylvania state court has awarded USI Insurance Services LLC $1.1 million in litigation over a former employee’s alleged failure to honor his noncompete agreement, in a ruling issued last week that focuses on the broker’s handwriting.
USI charged that Eric M. Frieman, a former employee of Wells Fargo Insurance Services USA Inc., which USI acquired in 2017, violated his nonsolicitation and noncompete agreement when he left Wells Fargo for Baltimore-based RCM&D Self-insured Services Inc., which conducts business as SISCO, and then solicited business from 18 Wells Fargo clients, according to a Philadelphia court’s ruling in USI Insurance Services National Inc. f/k/a ad f/d/b/a Wells Fargo Insurance Services USA Inc. v. Eric M. Frieman and RCM&D Self-Insured Services Co. Inc.
Mr. Frieman, who was employed by Wells Fargo as an employee benefits producer from 2008, signed a contract with nonsolicitation and noncompete provisions in 2010, and left the broker to join RCM&D in 2016, according to the ruling. He then allegedly solicited the 18 clients with whom had had worked at Wells Fargo, which moved their business to RCM&D.
“This Court finds that Plaintiff has demonstrated that the Agreement is a valid enforceable contract and Defendant Frieman breached the Agreement by Soliciting the clients he services at Wells Fargo,” the ruling by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County said.
The “main deciding issue” in the case was whether Mr. Frieman had signed the agreement. He denied it, and told his prospective employers his signature was forged.”
“Defendant Frieman claims that he only signs his name one way and the signature of the agreement is not the style of his signature,” the ruling said.
“The signature Defendant Frieman admits belongs to him is in a graphic style and is illegible,” the decision said.
“However, both the denied signature and the admitted signature appear on a deed dated September 1, 2005 that transfers ownership of his previous home,” said the ruling which reproduces both signatures.
“The signatures on the deed and mortgage are evidence that Defendant Frieman indeed has two styles of signatures,” the ruling said. “Therefore, this Court finds that Defendant failed to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that his signature on the agreement was forged.
“The Agreement is a valid Contract,” the decision said, in awarding USI the $1.7 million, which it said is based on gross commissions received by RCM&D for the 18 clients during the period the agreement was violated.
USI’s attorney, Vincent N. Barbera, a partner with White & Williams LLP in Philadelphia, said, this case’s outcome “is testament to USI’s tenacity in pursuing these cases and its commitment to getting to the truth and protecting its rights.”
Defense attorney Gordon P. Lentz, founding partner at Bochetto & Lentz P.C. in Philadelphia, said in a statement, “We disagree with the verdict and are pursuing post-trial motions and an appeal.”
A Pennsylvania judge last week dismissed a request from Wells Fargo Insurance Services USA Inc. to stop a group of former brokers in Pittsburgh who joined rival EPIC Insurance Brokers & Consultants from soliciting business from their former clients.