Sat | Jun 15, 2019

Former actuary sues Guardian Life

Published:Sunday | December 9, 2018 | 12:00 AMMcPherse Thompson
President of Guardian Life Limited, Eric Hosin, stands on the roof of the company's headquarters in New Kingston. Both Hosin and the company have been sued by a former actuary over her dismissal.

Insurance company Guardian Life Limited and its former vice-president and actuary, Catherine Allen, are locked in a legal battle in a claim she filed for wrongful dismissal.

The case also involves Guardian's decision to tap $1.25 billion of its reserves that are normally set aside to meet future insurance claims, but Allen suggests may have been used to pay interim dividends that were declared after the release of the reserves.

The company, meanwhile, has filed its own claim against Allen seeking to bar her from disclosing confidential information relating to what it calls its trade secrets, such as its management accounts, business strategies, profit margins and other financial performance, and product details and pricing.

Allen's attorneys, Ballantyne, Beswick and Company, filed a defence and counterclaim in the Supreme Court last week in which she denied breaching her duty of confidentiality, but indicated that some of the information Guardian Life consider confidential is not as it has already been disclosed to the stock exchange and in the annual financial statements.

One of the actuary's lawyers, Terri-Ann Guyah, told the Financial Gleaner that the case is next set for hearing on February 5, 2019.

In addition to Guardian Life, Allen has filed suit against the company's President Eric Hosin as well as consultant actuaries Eckler Limited. Her lawsuit also names parent company Guardian Holdings Limited, the Central Bank of Trinidad & Tobago, the Trinidad & Tobago Securities and Exchange Commission, and Jamaica's Financial Services Commission as interested parties that may find the outcome of the case informative.

Attorney Michael Hylton QC, who is representing Guardian Life and Hosin, said they are strongly opposing the claim and both have already filed their defence.

Eckler's general counsel, Rustam Juma, said the consultancy also filed a defence to the suit in which it gave notice that it would be applying to the court to have Allen's statement against it struck out on the basis that there were no reasonable legal grounds for the claim.

Allen was a vice-president and the legally appointed actuary of Guardian Life since 2007, but she lost her job on August 15 of this year, when her post was made redundant. Allen is contending, however, that she was terminated because she refused to corroborate the company's decision to release $1.25 billion of Guardian's reserves.

Allen sued Guardian on August 31 for wrongful dismissal, and has asked the court to order the reversal of the reserve transaction, in the interim, until the matter is settled at trial. She charged that the decision to release the funds was made after Guardian retained Eckler as its actuary.

However, Justice David Batts, who heard the latter application in September, decided against the interim order, saying it was unnecessary at that point in the case to determine the legal issues surrounding the reserves transaction. Batts also ruled Allen was unlikely to win that side of the case at trial.

"Justice is best served if the status quo remains until trial," the judge said.

Asked about the current status of the substantive lawsuit, Hylton said the court is likely to refer the case for mediation, but there was also likely to be multiple applications to strike all or parts of Allen's claim.

In a separate action, the court granted Guardian Life an 'Anton Piller' order against Allen, which resulted in a search of her home. Such an order allows for searches and seizure of evidence without prior warning to the target. Allen has counterclaimed against the search, saying it was unnecessary and unlawful.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com