2 February 2012
London - Leading global law firm Mayer Brown has obtained a 'springboard' injunction for specialist insurance group, QBE after members of its British Marine Division left to form a new competitive business.
In April 2011 a core of three members from British Marine's underwriting and claims team (including its portfolio manager) resigned from QBE to form a new firm, originally to be called Phoenix and more recently renamed as Lodestar. In the four months that followed, a further eight members of the team resigned.
The team's intention was to launch by the end of October 2011, in time to target the business due to renew on 20 February, when around 70% of the business in this sector is placed.
QBE's case was that the team move had been orchestrated by the senior members who had breached their duties to QBE by misusing confidential information and soliciting colleagues and clients. Proceedings were issued against the three main leavers and their new employer and, in October, an interim injunction was granted to stop the launch of the new business pending a November trial.
Following the trial, in which judgment was formally handed down on 27 January, the judge (Mr Justice Haddon-Cave) found for QBE on the basis that there had been a 'meticulous and sustained campaign of unlawful actions' by the defendants which they had concealed from QBE. This conduct, he held, had placed the team in a position to launch their competing business far earlier than could have been the case had they acted lawfully. The judge concluded: 'there could not be a clearer case for springboard relief' and extended the injunction until 28 April 2012, just over two months beyond the key insurance renewal date of 20 February.
The Mayer Brown team was led by Employment partner Christopher Fisher assisted by senior associates Joseph Lampo and Karen Stewart, associate Laura Pharez and trainees, Adrian de Mello and Shohta Ueno. Counsel instructed by Mayer Brown were David Reade QC and Dale Martin of Littleton Chambers.
Christopher Fisher, a partner in the Employment group of Mayer Brown, said: "This is an important decision. Recent team move cases have confirmed that springboard injunctions are not limited to misuse of confidential information, but extend to other breaches of obligation such as solicitation of colleagues and clients. While previous cases have been decided at an interim stage, this is the first of this type of case where the springboard injunction has been given following a full trial."