RSA investigation the battleground on which Smith will win or lose

Counsel for former chief executive seeks to punch holes in insurer’s processes

Philip Smith and his legal team arrived at the Employment Appeals Tribunal earlier this month. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Philip Smith and his legal team arrived at the Employment Appeals Tribunal earlier this month. Photograph: Dave Meehan

 

They say there’s no smoke without fire and so it proved yesterday at the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT), where Philip Smith’s constructive dismissal case against British insurance giant RSA finished hearing evidence.

But it had nothing to do with the frequently heated exchanges in room 15 of the EAT’s somewhat dated building on Adelaide Road.

As counsel for both sides waited for a date from the chair, Niamh O’Carroll-Kelly, to hear final submissions, the building was evacuated after the fire alarm sounded.

When they returned, Ms O’Carroll-Kelly said there had actually been an “incident upstairs” and it wasn’t a drill.

Mr Smith resigned from RSA in late November 2013, having earlier been suspended after reserving issues had come to light and were being investigated. He claims he was the “fall guy” for this problem, which wouldn’t have happened if €255 million of Irish reserves had not been raided by its parent.

Mr Smith alleges the outcome of the investigation was predetermined.

RSA group legal counsel Derek Walsh denied his investigation’s outcome was preordained and accused Mr Smith of “putting up roadblocks” by consistently giving excuses as to why he couldn’t attend interviews. This included ill health.

Irish treasure caves

Mr Smith claims his UK bosses knew all about the informal meetings that decided how it reserved for large motor claims. He told the tribunal he was not an accountant or actuary and relied on others’ technical expertise on such matters.

RSA said Mr Smith had an aggressive management style and that claims handlers were afraid to object when their recommendations on reserving were ignored. It said other financial issues came to light once its investigations began, along with questions around Mr Smith’s expenses.

Tom Mallon, counsel for Mr Smith, time and again sought to punch holes in the process used by RSA to investigate these matters. This is where the battle will be won or lost, rather than the details around Mr Smith’s performance as chief.

They’ll return on May 11th for submissions, after which both sides will await a verdict to discover if Mr Smith’s case has gone up in smoke.

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