A non-compete agreement signed by a former Willis Re Inc. broker who has joined Guy Carpenter & Co. is enforceable under Florida law, a federal district court said to deny the broker a preliminary injunction annulling the 2008 agreement.
Anthony Phillips, who worked as a reinsurance broker and consultant for Willis Re for 25 years, had signed an employment contract that included a clause on "employee loyalty, non-competition and non-solicitation" provided he would not work with Willis' Clients. for two years after leaving office, following Monday's decision by the U.S. District Court in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Anthony Phillips v. Willis Re Inc.
Mr. Phillipps resigned from Willis Re to join Guy Carpenter on November 1
He also moved to a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent Willis Re from enforcing the non-request clause.
The district court denied Phillips' request for a temporary restraining order in November, but reserved the ruling on the preliminary injunction until Monday's decision.
The key factor in the court's decision was whether Florida or Puerto Rico law was applied with respect to the non-summons agreement. Under an earlier decision by the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, the two-year non-request provision is subject to annulment, but Florida courts have upheld two-year agreements, the decision said.
The court held that Florida law was applied to deny Mr. Phillips' bid for a preliminary injunction. "Phillips' motion for injunction has been condemned because it is doubtful of success on the merits," the decision states.
"Phillips claims that his regular office was in Puerto Rico. "This statement is incorrect. Willis Re has no office in Puerto Rico. "
The Florida office is located in Miami," The same office that Phillips "established" for Willis Re in 1994, "it said.
"Although he recently moved to Puerto Rico, the signature block in his e-mail correspondence contains the same address for the Willis Re office in Miami," the court said.
The verdict is being appealed to the United States First Court of Appeal in Boston.
A Willis Re lawyer had no comment while Phillips' lawyers did not respond to a request for comment.
Disputes over non-solicitation agreements among brokers spread in 2019, but the pace of the new disputes seems to have slowed down since then.