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Insurance giants in High Court battle over executive poaching

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Insurance magnate David Howden is facing a High Court battle with an American rival over allegations that his business poached a team of more than 30 top brokers.

It is claimed that the staff who quit to join Howden Group printed off thousands of pages of commercially sensitive information before they left former employer Guy Carpenter, owned by American insurance juggernaut Marsh & McLennan.

Bradley Maltese, a former executive at JLT Re, led the walkout of 31 staff.

JLT was bought by Marsh McLennan in 2019 in a deal worth $5.6bn (£4bn), with some of its divisions folded into Guy Carpenter.

Guy Carpenter and Marsh Services launched legal action against Mr Maltese alongside Vijay Mavani, Molly Wyatt, William Abbott and Gayle Scott as well as Howden Insurance Brokers and Howden Group Services Limited, according to High Court filings.

It is alleged that four of the defecting group accessed commercially sensitive information in the weeks before they resigned. An interim hearing took place on Apr 30.

Mr Howden oversees one of London’s largest privately-owned insurance empires.

Although the family name is steeped in insurance – his ancestors formed a brokerage to insure the transportation of precious materials from India – he started what is now the Howden Broking with “three staff and a dog” in a small office in the City in 1994.

Howden Group Holdings now employs 8,500 people globally and manages insurance premiums of more than £10bn annually.

Guy Carpenter’s history can be traced back to the early 20th century and the southern states of America. Mr Carpenter’s eponymous business initially focused on insuring harvested cotton before he met fellow brokers Henry Marsh and Donald McLennan during a transatlantic crossing in 1923 and merged his business with theirs.

The legal row follows a series of similar wrangles in the US amid a wave of insurance deal making.

Guy Carpenter is on the receiving end of a staff poaching case in the US. The reinsurance division of Willis Towers Watson launched legal action in April after more than 20 employees from its Latin American team resigned to join Guy Carpenter.

Willis Towers Watson agreed to merge with Aon in March 2020. The tie-up, worth £21.5bn, remains subject to regulatory clearances.

Guy Carpenter and Howden declined to comment.