Ex-AXA director loses defamation suit

He said insurer's references left him unemployable and demanded $22.5m

A FORMER senior financial services director, who claimed the references AXA Life Insurance gave him left him "unemployable" in the industry, has lost a multimillion-dollar defamation suit.

Mr Ramesh Krishnan, 44, had accused AXA of defaming him when providing references on his work performance. He also demanded $22.5 million for alleged loss of earnings and damage to his reputation before filing the suit.

He said the references cost him potential remuneration from two prospective employers - a $2.2 million package with Prudential and a $20,000 sign-on fee with Tokio Marine.

Mr Ramesh, who managed a group of agents that sold AXA products, said the insurer provided the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) with information on his low group persistency ratios - this refers to how long the policies were still in force after a given period - and high lapse rates. This refers to policies that terminate because policyholders stop paying premiums.

It also provided information on the conduct of 14 agents under his supervision, five of whom had been disciplined for improper sales practices and unprofessional conduct. Three other agents were referred to the police.

AXA had complied with an industry reference check system on financial advisers when it told the two companies of the "persistency" of policies sold by financial advisers under Mr Ramesh's agency.

Mr Ramesh said AXA conveyed a much lower persistency rate, one that would lead an ordinary person to infer that he had been incompetent.

But High Court Judicial Commissioner George Wei found that an ordinary person is unlikely to know what is considered a low persistency ratio as "comprehension of the figures... will require a certain degree of special background knowledge".

The judge's 106-page ruling released yesterday also noted that AXA did not breach the duty to take reasonable care in responding to Prudential, Tokio Marine and MAS, because the accuracy of AXA's calculations of the persistency ratios was "supported by evidence and remains largely unchallenged" by Mr Ramesh.

Further, the judge found that AXA did not cause Mr Ramesh to be rejected by Prudential because it had, even after getting AXA's references, applied and managed to get a conditional licence on his behalf from the MAS.

But Prudential decided against hiring him. Similarly, Tokio Marine took into account many factors in deciding not to hire Mr Ramesh, of which AXA's references were only one, the judge found.


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