INSURER Aviva Singapore had prepared a war chest of S$100 million to S$150 million to poach 250 top agents from rival Prudential Assurance Company Singapore, the High Court heard on Tuesday in a high-stakes lawsuit that could see claims as high as S$2.5 billion.
Prudential alleges that its former star group agency manager Peter Tan Shou Yi had instigated 221 agents and 23 agency leaders at his agency Peter Tan Organisation (PTO) to defect en masse to Aviva's subsidiary Aviva Financial Advisers in mid-2016. It claims that the 54-year-old had breached his contractual and fiduciary duties when he carried out the poaching while he was still a Prudential agency leader and being paid handsomely - S$9.7 million in 2015.
PTO was the top producer at Prudential before the exodus took place. It pulled in S$141 million in new business profits and a total annual premium equivalent (APE) of S$192 million from 2011 to 2015.
In the opening statement, Prudential's lawyers from Rajah & Tann detailed how Mr Tan secretly orchestrated the exodus using a "carrot and stick" approach in his targeted and aggressive campaign to "dislodge" the agents from Prudential. He was said to provide a base team of 250 agents under his 10-year deal with Aviva.
Mr Tan had at least 12 meetings with the agents including the one in Guangzhou where attendance was mandatory, gave extensive presentations, promised those who left with him loyalty bonuses while threatening the future of those who remained, the court heard.
To keep his solicitation a secret, Mr Tan warned agents not to make copies of the material distributed to them and also had them write their names on the material so that any photocopy could be traced. "Peter’s surreptitious actions are consistent with his own belief that he was under a non-solicitation obligation," Prudential said in the opening statement.
Prudential saw an unprecedented 70,000 policies suddenly left with no agents, or known as orphan policies, as a result of the exodus. To minimise the adverse impact on holders of these orphan policies, the insurer gave incentives to other agents to service them.