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A federal judge in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Thursday issued a preliminary injunction against a group of former Willis Towers Watson PLC surety brokers who last month joined rival Alliant Insurance Services Inc.
According to the ruling in Willis Towers Watson Southeast Inc. v Alliant Insurance Services Inc., John T. Thomas, Andrew Bennett and Jennifer Boyers Gullett, the three brokers breached nonsolicitation agreements they signed when they joined Willis after they brought over 16 long-standing clients to Alliant shortly after they left Willis.
The three brokers, who all worked in Willis’ Charlotte office, had access to confidential and proprietary information about Willis clients and used the brokerage’s resources to develop and nurture client relationships, the ruling said.
“To protect its investments, information, and client relationships from unfair competition and ensure the secrecy of its confidential and proprietary information, WTW SE takes reasonable and prudent measures such as requiring employees like the Individual Defendants to execute a variety of agreements that contain confidentiality provisions, non-solicitation provisions and other forms of restrictive covenants,” the ruling states.
Courts in North Carolina have previously ruled that restrictive covenants are reasonable, the court said.
“Without enforcement of the contractual protections to which WTW SE and the Individual Defendants agreed, WTW SE will continue to unfairly lose access to the resources it has provided to its Surety Practice employees through Individual Defendants’ unlawful solicitation,” the ruling states.
The preliminary injunction bars the brokers from working on former Willis accounts and soliciting business from other accounts handled by Willis.
The court declined to grant a preliminary injunction against Alliant, though, stating that Willis had not shown that Alliant “intentionally induced” the brokers to breach their nonsolicitation agreements.