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Alliant Insurance Services Inc. on Thursday accused rival brokerage Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. of “forum-shopping and judge-shopping” in filing a suit over alleged staff poaching in a Delaware state court earlier this week.
Seeking to have the case removed to federal court, Newport Beach, California-based Alliant also argued that its private equity owner Stone Point Capital LLC should be dropped from the dispute between the brokerages.
Gallagher sued Alliant in Delaware’s Chancery Court on Monday in Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. v. Alliant Insurance Services Inc. and Stone Point Capital LLC alleging that Alliant had taken 39 Gallagher staff and more than 80 clients in an illegal poaching scheme.
Gallagher alleged that Alliant encouraged the former Gallagher brokers and support staff to breach nonsolicitation agreements and bring former clients with them when they joined Alliant at higher salaries, which Gallagher argues were facilitated by capital from Stone Point.
Gallagher said it could bring the case in Delaware state court, which previously had ruled against Alliant in a poaching dispute with Lockton Cos. LLC., because it was domiciled in the state and that Alliant had been domiciled there when it began recruiting Gallagher staff last year. Alliant redomiciled to California earlier this year.
In its filing on Thursday, Alliant argued that the case should be moved to federal court in Delaware. According to the motion, Gallagher had previously sued Alliant over the alleged recruitment scheme in state courts in California, Florida and Texas. The actions are pending, but in the Texas case a judge denied Gallagher’s application for a temporary restraining order, the Alliant removal notice states.
“This case has no relationship with Delaware. None of the parties has an office in Delaware. None has any employees in Delaware. None of the employees who departed Gallagher worked in Delaware. No Delaware court has personal jurisdiction over Alliant,” court papers say.
Gallagher is seeking a “do-over” of the suits filed in other states in front of Delaware’s Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster, who ruled in the Lockton case, court paper say.
In addition, Stone Point, which is Alliant’s largest shareholder and holds several board seats, should not be included in the dispute, Alliant argues.
“That classic corporate structure does not create liability. Otherwise, all private equity sponsors would always be hauled off to court for alleged actions of their portfolio companies. What the Complaint lacks is any allegation that Stone Point had actual knowledge or involvement in any of the alleged conduct at issue,” court papers say.
A Gallagher spokesman said the brokerage does not comment on pending litigation.
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.