QBE Alleges Poaching of Aviation Team; Applied Underwriters Denies Wrongdoing

By | January 21, 2022

Insurer QBE has filed a lawsuit alleging a poaching scheme by a number of its former aviation division employees and specialty insurer Applied Underwriters.

QBE’s complaint involves the resignation of a total of 13 employees in Atlanta, New York and Arizona offices, including senior employees Steven Allen, senior vice president, and Gregory Dekker, vice president of underwriting, from QBE’s aviation division in September.

Applied Underwriters has denied any wrongdoing.

Citing the timing of the mass resignation, communications containing confidential information, and records of meetings, QBE claims Allen “orchestrated a poaching scheme” in coordination with his new employer, Applied, and in violation of QBE’s employment agreements that restrict sharing of confidential information, recruiting of employees, and soliciting of agents, brokers and policyholders.

The complaint also names Kristina Orcutt and Kristina Mulligan, both senior aviation underwriters.

QBE further claims Applied was aware of QBE’s employment agreements with the aviation team members. “Applied approved Allen’s direct targeting and solicitation of QBE’s workforce, and/or indirectly facilitated Allen’s scheme by recruiting and hiring 12 QBE employees that Allen had identified for Applied,” the complaint alleges.

QBE filed its suit in the commercial division of the county of New York court in New York on Jan. 18. The insurer is seeking injunctive relief and enforcement of employment agreements and arbitration provisions against the senior employees who left.

Specialty insurer Applied Underwriters pushed back against the lawsuit. In a press statement calling the suit “sour grapes,” Applied’s general counsel Jeffrey Silver maintained that the former QBE employees joined Applied of their own volition and Applied acted properly in hiring them.

“This lawsuit is plainly meritless and intends simply to use the actions against former employees – individuals – to try to accomplish with a nuisance suit what they could not accomplish with investment in the sector and with an effective marketing approach,” Applied Underwriters’ Silver commented. He said the individuals named in the suit who had worked at QBE “elected to move to Applied Underwriters of their own volition to fully develop their business specialty using Applied’s resources.”

Silver said Applied itself “acted ethically and openly to engage these interested insurance professionals, but not as any kind of specific move” against QBE.

Silver said his company “did not seek, did not receive, nor do we need any of QBE’s confidential information.”

The suit accuses Allen and Dekker of breach of contract, breach of loyalty and duty, misappropriation of confidential information and unfair competition. Allen was responsible for the performance of QBE’s aviation practice and all of its personnel. Dekker was vice president of underwriting for the aviation division, reporting to Allen.

According to the QBE complaint, Allen told his manager at QBE of the 12 resignations from the aviation team on Sept. 20, 2021 and said none of the people had told him they were going to Applied and he was not involved in their decisions to resign.

On Sept. 22, Allen informed QBE he, too, was resigning.

On Oct. 27, according to the complaint, Allen’s attorney Steven Mintz made reference to a potential connection of the resignations to Applied Underwriters, suggesting to QBE that the matter could be resolved by Applied purchasing renewal rights to QBE’s aviation book of business.

Correction: The original article wrongly said Mintz was QBE’s attorney, not Allen’s. The suggestion of purchasing the book of business was made by Allen’s lawyer Mintz to QBE and was not raised by QBE. Insurance Journal regrets the errors.

Topics Underwriting Aviation

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