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AXA Singapore to pay former employee $4.026 million after harsh reference letter cost him new job

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The High Court has awarded former insurance agent Ramesh Krishnan $4.026 million, compensating him for loss of earnings, after ex-employer AXA Life Insurance Singapore’s harsh reference letter caused him to lose a job opportunity at Prudential Assurance Company Singapore.

Despite evidence showing that Krishnan was one of AXA’s best financial service directors and despite the firm’s previous attempt to convince Krishnan not to resign, AXA delivered a particularly poor reference about Krishnan when he eventually resigned and prospective new employer Prudential approached AXA for a reference letter.

In the letter, AXA wrote that it was “very concerned as to whether the clients have been provided with proper advice,” alleging that a high number of Krishnan’s clients did not stay with the firm’s policies.

Krishnan subsequently sued AXA for defamation in 2012 – a lawsuit he lost in 2015. However, the Court of Appeal ruled in 2016 in Krishnan’s favour, that AXA had breached its duty of care to him and asked the High Court to determine the damages.

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Krishnan – said to be one of AXA’s best-compensated advisers – asked for $63 million, while AXA defiantly offered a nominal $1 in damages.

In determining the damages, Justice George Wei considered that Krishnan would’ve earned a commencement allowance of $675,000 and a starting monthly salary of $65,625 from 2011 for the first year of service at Prudential – according to the conditional package Prudential had offered to Krishnan – followed by $43,750 per month until July last year.

Justice Wei also the loss of future earnings from last August until next July into account at a discounted rate. Finally, since Krishnan worked at a vegetarian cafe while he was battling the case in court, Justice Wei subtracted his earnings from the cafe from the final amount and ordered AXA to pay Krishnan $4.026 million.

Industry insiders said that the ruling demonstrates the standard of care employers have to observe in writing references for employees and in fulfilling the requirements of truth, accuracy and fairness in writing such letters.

Meanwhile, AXA is seeking legal advice on the judgment as Krishnan hopes to return to his 15-year career in insurance.

 

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