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Insurance CEO justifiably dismissed: Employment Relations Authority

An insurance company boss who lost his job after last year's Kaikoura earthquake was justifiably dismissed, the Employment Relations Authority has ruled.

Eugene Elisara, who was chief executive of the local arm of global insurance company Allianz, was dismissed this year.

Allianz suffered a $32 million loss from Wellington property affected by last November's 7.8-magnitude earthquake.

Elisara, according to a recent ERA decision, was dismissed from his position after a disciplinary process and Allianz concluding he failed to ensure an underwriting instruction was complied with.

A review of a company account which included 29 Wellington properties worth $564m "found there had been a substantial breakdown in underwriting controls by Allianz", the ERA said.

"The reviewers found that Mr Elisara's decision-making in relation to [the account] showed a lack of business judgment that operationalised when the underwriting process broke down," the ERA decision said.

Elisara, who is a former board member of the Insurance Council, took a case to the ERA claiming he was unjustifiably dismissed and alleged the disciplinary process against him had been unfair.

As part of his case, he claimed that Allianz failed in its investigation to:
 put all of the allegations to him;
 allow him adequate opportunity to bring a support person to disciplinary meetings;
 provide him with critical evidence and give him an opportunity to respond;
 bring an open mind when making the decision, which he alleged was predetermined;
 have the decision-maker investigate and hear his explanations;

But ERA member Vicki Campbell found that Elisara had not been treated unfairly and that any defects in process were minor.

She found that Allianz "could conclude Mr Elisara's actions amounted to serious misconduct".

"I have concluded that the decision to dismiss Mr Elisara for serious misconduct was substantively justified and within the range of reasonable responses Allianz could take.

"Mr Elisara was responsible for a substantial breach of his obligations which caused significant loss to Allianz. He failed in his requirement to ensure 100 per cent compliance with the underwriting instruction," she said later in the decision.

Campbell found that Elisara was justifiably dismissed and that Allianz did not breach its obligations of good faith.

Elisara told the Herald that he was disappointed with the outcome and that he was anticipating an appeal.

 

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