An Expensive Lesson: AXA Ordered to Pay Ex-Advisor S$3.2 million in Damages for Negligent Employment Reference

Ramesh s/o Krishnan v AXA Life Insurance Singapore Pte Ltd [2016] 4 SLR 1124; Ramesh s/o Krishnan v AXA Life Insurance Singapore Pte Ltd [2017] SGHC 197

For the first time in Singapore’s legal history, an employer was held liable for negligently preparing an inaccurate employment reference against a former employee. Our team, including Suang Wijaya and Johannes Hadi, had the privilege of acting for Ramesh s/o Krishnan in this landmark case against AXA Life Insurance Singapore Pte Ltd (now known as AXA Insurance Pte Ltd) (“AXA”).

Our client, Ramesh, was one of AXA’s best and top-earning financial advisers. In 2011, he left AXA and applied to join Prudential Assurance Company Singapore Pte Ltd (“Prudential”) and Tokio Marine Life Insurance Singapore Limited (“Tokio Marine”). Pursuant to Monetary Authority of Singapore (“MAS”) regulations, Prudential and Tokio Marine requested a reference from AXA before deciding whether to hire Ramesh. Contrary to the truth, AXA’s replies suggested that Ramesh’s performance at AXA had been “very poor” and also stated that he had been investigated for “compliance issues”. AXA also gave the same responses to MAS, which eventually led to MAS informing Prudential that certain conditions would be imposed on it if it decided to hire Ramesh. As a result, Prudential withdrew its application for an MAS license for Ramesh and decided not to hire him. Tokio Marine also similarly decided not to hire him.

We successfully litigated Ramesh’s case before the Court of Appeal, which agreed with us that AXA owed Ramesh a duty of care in preparing the references that it had sent to Prudential and MAS. It also found that AXA had breached this duty of care by including various inaccuracies and misleading statements in its references, which caused Prudential not to hire Ramesh. For its negligence, the Court of Appeal ultimately ordered AXA to pay S$3.2 million in damages to our client.