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Singapore court awards S$4 million over bad reference

Singapore's High Court has awarded S$4 million ($2.9 million) to a former insurance agent after a letter of reference lost him a potential new job.16 Aug 2017

Singapore's Court of Appeal had asked the High Court to determine the damages after ruling last year that AXA had breached its "duty of care" to Ramesh Krishnan when its references cost him a $2.2m ($1.6m) job with Prudential.

Ramesh brought claims of defamation, malicious falsehood and negligence against AXA over references given to Prudential, to Tokio Marine and to the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Ramesh had been employed by AXA from 2005 to 2011, leading a group of advisers. Apart from being promoted twice in that period, Ramesh also won "numerous awards and accolades", the court said.

However, the relationship between Ramesh and AXA began to deteriorate after a new chief executive was employed. Ramesh eventually resigned in April 2011 and began to look for other work.

In its references AXA said that Ramesh's group of advisers "showed a very poor 13th month persistency rate", a measure of how many clients continue their policies, and "we are very concerned as to whether the clients have been provided with proper advice".

Although the information included in AXA's reference was factually true, a substantial part was incomplete, misleading and unfair, the court found. AXA unfairly withheld some information despite the Prudential's requests for it.

Ramesh's claims were originally dismissed by the High Court in 2015. However, in July 2016 the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal in part, finding that AXA was liable for negligence and sending the case back to the High Court.

The High Court calculated the damages based on Ramesh's potential earnings had he been employed by Prudential, minus the income he has had made working in a restaurant owned by his wife. 

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