One of the world’s largest insurance brokers has been accused of forging documents to deceive a client about a policy payout and retain a lucrative relationship with industry giant Axa.
In a legal claim filed in London, lawyers for British property investor Aubrey Weis allege that individuals working in the UK office of Lockton altered an insurance certificate, two settlement forms and an Axa email — all in an apparent bid to secure ongoing commissions.
Lockton, which ranks eighth among global brokers on annual revenues, had been chosen by Mr Weis’s real estate group CPC to arrange insurance for its commercial properties. It then provided a policy for the group’s billion-pound portfolio with Axa Insurance UK.
In June 2019, after fire damaged CPC’s Golden Triangle industrial estate in Widnes, the group made a claim on this policy and was assured by Lockton it was covered for the full “reinstatement” cost of the buildings.
However, in the claim filed at the High Court, CPC’s lawyers say that after Axa questioned the level of cover Lockton had actually arranged, an “unknown employee” of the broker altered the certificate of insurance in July 2019. This alteration reduced the cover to an “indemnity” basis, which would pay a lower amount.
Lockton concealed the change from CPC, the lawyers allege, and when the property group demanded full settlement of its claim as a precondition of renewing its policy, an employee at the insurance broker forged two Axa acceptance forms in February 2020. These forms were made to show a settlement for reinstatement costs of £1.25m, rather than the £541,000 plus costs that Axa had actually offered.
When CPC asked for the £1.25m to be paid by bank transfer, its lawyers say the same Lockton employee then forged an email purporting to be from Axa confirming the imminent payment.
While that payment was still being chased, the renewal process for CPC’s 2020-21 insurance was under way, and a new policy was entered into in early March 2020.
At that point, Axa confirmed it had not sent the email about a bank transfer. A month later, Lockton admitted that the email, settlement forms and insurance certificates had been forgeries, the court document states, but it has not offered CPC any redress.
According to CPC’s legal claim, the deception was attempted by Lockton to retain valuable business. It says: “Lockton sought to make a profit for themselves by way of the commission for the renewal of the policy for 2020-21 and/or by increasing their reputation in the market and/or with Axa by the renewal of the policy and retention of CPC as a client.”
No figure is given for the commission, but one person familiar with the policy estimates it is about £1.5m.
Lockton declined to comment. But a person with knowledge of its operations said the incident was a one-off that the firm identified early and tried to resolve, adding that it had resulted in no regulatory action.
Axa UK confirmed that it was aware of the proceedings and added: “We do not comment on matters which are before the court and in which we are not involved.”
CPC is now seeking full reinstatement costs, compensation for breach of contract and fiduciary duties, plus exemplary damages to the value of the commission Lockton sought to make.