Former RSA Ireland chief takes dismissal action

Insurer tells Employment Appeals Tribunal it will fight case ‘tooth and nail’

Former RSA Insurance Ireland chief executive Philip Smith alleges  constructive dismissal against the British insurer.

Former RSA Insurance Ireland chief executive Philip Smith alleges constructive dismissal against the British insurer.

 

Former RSA Insurance Ireland chief executive Philip Smith has taken a case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal alleging constructive dismissal against the British insurer.

This relates to his departure from RSA in controversial circumstances in November 2013 after certain financial issues emerged at the UK group’s Irish subsidiary.

At a hearing in Dublin today, RSA rejected the claim and told the EAT that it would be fighting the case “tooth and nail”.

“We believe the case is without merit and the company will robustly defend it. We dispute entirely Philip Smith’s contention of unfair dismissal.”

Tom Mallon, counsel representing Mr Smith, told the hearing’s chair Niamh O’Carroll-Kelly that this would be a “lengthy case” that could require four to five days to hear evidence from various witnesses, including Mr Smith.

He said a request for documents from RSA had only been made on Tuesday evening and this matter had yet to be resolved by the two sides. Mr Mallon said the nature of the evidence would be such that it would be appropriate for it to be heard on consecutive days and noted that there would be significant media interest in the case.

He said the case was “potentially significant” for Mr Smith, not only in “money terms” but in terms of my client’s employability into the future”.

Brian O’Moore, senior counsel for RSA, said the case had “no merit” and would be “robustly defended” by the insurance company. RSA would be “disputing the entirety of the claim”, he added.

He said Mr Smith’s legal team had sought documents under 22 categories, a lot of them confidential.

The two sides agreed to try and deal with this matter by way of correspondence in advance of the case beginning to hear evidence.

The hearing was told that Mr Smith’s employment with RSA began on January 1st 2006 and ceased on November 28th 2013. He was paid a gross monthly salary of €34,000, which equates to €408,000 a year.

Mr Smith, who has an address in Cabinteely, Dublin, alleges constructive dismissal with no notice.

Mr Mallon said Mr Smith likely to spend one day being questioned by his own counsel and the same length of time being cross examined by RSA’s legal team. He estimated that RSA would want to call four to five witnesses of its own.

Ms O’Carroll-Kelly agreed to list the case for five days beginning on March 9th. She requested that if a settlement is to be agreed in advance that it be done “sooner rather than later” to facilitate the workload of the EAT.

On November 8th 2013, RSA suspended Mr Smith pending the outcome of an investigation into issues in the Irish claims and finance functions that were identified during a routine internal audit. At the time, it said no findings had been made against the executive.

On November 28th, RSA revealed that Mr Smith had resigned and said no severance payment had been made.

RSA subsequently announced £200 million worth of losses at its Irish subsidiary. It also injected capital into its Irish unit to ensure its solvency ratio was in excess of 200 per cent.

In a statement following his resignation, Mr Smith said: “My family and I have been truly traumatised by recent events and I have taken this most difficult of decisions in the best interests of my family. Resigning not only eases the stress and strain on them, but also offers me the opportunity to pursue justice outside the current flawed process which I am certain was established to arrive at a pre-determined outcome.”