The first litigation fallout from a dispute over alleged mass poaching of agents has surfaced in the High Court, with life insurer Prudential Assurance suing its former senior financial services manager, Mr Peter Tan Shou Yi.
The Singapore company is accusing Mr Tan, 53, of getting more than 230 agents and agency leaders to quit and move to rival insurer Aviva Financial Advisers.
Mr Tan, while working at Prudential, had been in charge of a group known as Peter Tan Organisation (PTO), which had about 500 agents and agency leaders.
Prudential claims Mr Tan made various representations and remarks to them on various occasions in May and June 2016 that allegedly caused them to leave.
It added that they left when he was still contracted as an agent and agency leader of Prudential.
Mr Tan, represented by lawyers from TSMP Corporation led by Senior Counsel Thio Shen Yi, is contesting the claims.
Meanwhile, a preliminary issue on audio recordings of the alleged soliciting of the agents has come before the court.
Prudential's lawyers from Rajah & Tann, led by Mr K. Muralidharan Pillai, had sought to ascertain from Mr Tan if he was the person speaking in the recordings and following objections, this became an issue for the court to decide.
The recordings were allegedly his discussions with Prudential agents and agency leaders at certain meetings, during which he is said to have asked them to leave the firm. Mr Tan's lawyers are challenging the authenticity of the recordings, among other things.
Their arguments were heard by High Court assistant registrar Justin Yeo, who gave his judgment grounds last week. Mr Yeo said he accepted that the recordings' authenticity will be fiercely fought at the trial but the fact that it is in dispute is "not of itself a bar" for the question sought in the interrogatories to be answered by Mr Tan.
"What he has to do is to respond factually, to the best of his knowledge... For instance, if he honestly believes the voice to be his but that his speech had been manipulated to misrepresent what had actually transpired, it is open to him to qualify his response accordingly."
Interrogatories are questions raised that can significantly reduce costs and help in the fair disposal of the matter.
Mr Yeo, however, disallowed a set of secondary queries Prudential wanted Mr Tan to answer. He ruled that they were not necessary at this stage or to save costs.
SC Thio yesterday said his team is studying the judgment grounds when asked if he would appeal.
Mr Tan, who holds five professional degrees and qualifications, has more than 20 companies across Asia, according to his website.
He also, among other things, started a $1 million PTO Endowment Fund at the School of Economics in Singapore Management University for needy students, as well as supported the Yellow Ribbon Project by helping offenders in Changi Prison learn basic skills in logistics management.