Ex-Prudential agency manager breached agreement in soliciting mass defection to Aviva, says High Court

Mr Peter Tan Shou Yi is liable for breach of his contractual obligation to conduct his insurance business with integrity and honesty.
Mr Peter Tan Shou Yi is liable for breach of his contractual obligation to conduct his insurance business with integrity and honesty.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A former top agency manager at Prudential Assurance Company has been found by the High Court to have breached his agency agreement in soliciting 204 agents and 23 agency leaders to defect en masse to rival company Aviva.

Mr Peter Tan Shou Yi, 56, and his company Peter Tan Organisation Management and Consultancy (PTOMC), were sued by Prudential for up to $2.5 billion for allegedly "surreptitiously" orchestrating a mass defection to Aviva's subsidiary Aviva Financial Advisers in mid-2016.

PTOMC is the company through which Mr Tan is providing services to Aviva.

Justice Chua Lee Ming, in an oral judgment issued on Wednesday afternoon (May 5), said that the losses that Prudential suffered "is for profits that it could have earned from the departed agents" from May 9, 2016, to July 23 that same year.

The assessment of losses would be calculated by UK consultancy Berkeley Research Group's chairman Richard Boulton, the judge added.

The judge dismissed Prudential's claim that Mr Tan had breached his fiduciary duty, as well as its claim that PTOMC had dishonestly assisted Mr Tan in poaching the agents and agency leaders.

The High Court holds that Mr Tan is liable for breach of his contractual obligation to conduct his insurance business with integrity and honesty.

Mr Tan countersued midway through the proceedings, alleging that Mr Philip Seah, chief executive of Prudential Assurance Company Singapore from December 2015 to November 2016, wrongfully induced the two agency leaders to give up "protected information" relating to a potential move to Aviva in exchange for benefits.

Agency leaders Wendy Ho Xiang Yu, 34, and Royston Ng Youliang, 36, were both members of Mr Tan's agency, Peter Tan Organisation.

Mr Tan contends that both Ms Ho and Mr Ng breached confidentiality obligations to him.

He claimed that between February 2016 and July 2016, Ms Ho and Mr Ng engaged in secret discussions with Prudential, in which they agreed to remain with the company and hand over certain protected information and recordings to it in return for perks such as promotions.

The recordings included one of a meeting in Guangzhou in May 2016 relating to the move to Aviva.

But Justice Chua dismissed all of Mr Tan's counterclaims against Prudential.

In a statement to The Straits Times after the judgement, Mr Tan noted that most of the claims  against him were dismissed, and the claims against his company were dismissed.

"The court did find a breach, and that I have to pay for about 2.5 months’ worth of loss... This still has to be calculated, but I think it’s likely to be less than ½ percent of Prudential’s claim," he said, adding that he has asked his lawyers to study the judgment "so that I can consider all my options in an informed way".