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Judge Denies Aon's Motion to Find Alliant in Contempt in Employee-Poaching Suit

Source: A.M. Best

Posted on 24 Feb 2012

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A New York judge has denied a motion by Aon Corp. to find Alliant Insurance Services Inc. in contempt, ruling no recent allegations against Alliant violated a previous court order.

Alliant since December has been under a preliminary injunction that stems from a lawsuit over alleged poaching of employees and clients from Aon Construction Services Group by former Aon executive Michael Cusack. Under the injunction, Cusack and his current employer, Alliant Insurance Services, are barred from taking customers and employees away from Aon.

Alliant and its lawyer, Jeffrey S. Klein, issued a written statement following word of the decision.

"(The) ruling helps to clarify the limited scope of the injunction and will hopefully correct some of the confusion in the marketplace," Klein said in the statement. "This is an important and positive development, and we will continue to defend our client against Aon."

Aon responded to the decision with a brief written comment through spokesman David Prosperi.

"Both parties are pursuing their respective rights and we look forward to pursuing a favorable outcome for Aon," Prosperi wrote.

Aon claimed Alliant violated the injunction in January when former Aon and current Alliant employee Peter Arkley sent an email to certain Aon clients inviting them to an industry event. Aon also claimed two other former Aon and current Alliant employees solicited Aon clients.

New York County Supreme Court Judge Bernard Fried ruled Aon's interpretation of the injunction was too broad and "clearly erroneous." He ruled there was no evidence either Arkley or the two other Alliant employees collaborated with Cusack when contacting Aon clients, thus not violating the order.

Fried also found no current Alliant employees who contacted Aon clients were formerly employed by Aon Northeast, which is one of the stipulations of the injunction.

Aon and Alliant have been at odds since June when Aon sued Alliant, accusing former Aon executives of breach of contract and conspiring to "rob" the construction service group of employees and clients.  Aon alleges the executives conspired to orchestrate the "massive defection."

The lawsuits were filed in Cook County, Ill., and in New York County, N.Y., court records say. The Cook County case was voluntarily dismissed in September by Aon, according to online court records.

Aon  is second on Best's Review's list of top global insurance brokers, ranked by 2010 revenue, while Alliant Insurance Services is 14th. Shares of Aon, on the morning of Feb. 23, were trading at $48.12, up 0.8% from the previous close.