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Aon takes on Willis in trade secrets claim


2017-09-29 14:16:18


Insurance broker Aon has taken on rival Willis Towers Watson over the hiring of a chief financial officer (CFO) and the alleged misappropriation of trade secrets.

Aon filed its suit (pdf) at the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, on Monday, September 25, claiming that a former consultant had misappropriated Aon’s trade secrets and confidential information.

According to the suit, former PwC partner Michael Burwell had spent the last year helping Aon with its strategy relating to the restructuring of its business units and various cost-savings initiatives.

Aon said that it had required PwC to sign a non-disclosure agreement and agree to prevent its consultants and partners from working for specific competitors, including Willis, for two years.

“While working for Aon, Burwell—without Aon’s knowledge—began negotiating with Aon’s competitor Willis to take a position as Willis’s CFO,” added the claim.

Willis was also accused of soliciting Burwell for employment, knowing of Burwell’s work on the Aon project and his “exposure to Aon’s trade secrets and confidential information”.

In August, Willis announced Burwell’s appointment, but he is due to start in October.

At PwC, he served in senior leadership roles over the last decade, including head of global transformation; chief operating officer and CFO in the US, and head of transaction services in the US.

“While negotiating his new position with Aon’s direct competitor, Burwell continued to work on the Aon projects; continued to receive Aon confidential information; and continued to attend confidential strategy meetings with Aon’s most senior executives,” claimed Aon.

The insurance broker went on to say that Burwell will use Aon’s trade secrets to Aon’s competitive disadvantage if he begins to work with Willis.

The confidential information and trade secrets covered Aon’s restructuring plans, operating models, business plans, and information on the offices that Aon planned to expand or contract.

“Burwell also is highly knowledgeable about the specific work performed by PwC for Aon, which could be used by a competitor to replicate the organisational changes and savings initiatives that Aon invested substantial time and money [in] to develop,” said the suit.

Aon has asked the court to enjoin Burwell from acting in any capacity for Willis for the next two years.  

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