Wednesday 20 November 2019

Former RSA chief Philip Smith said Central Bank report was a 'character assassination'

Philip Smith
Philip Smith

Emma Jane Hade

The former chief executive of RSA Insurance’s Irish division has said that he felt the second half of a draft report which was sent to the Central Bank was a "character assassination".

Philip Smith controversially resigned as the head of the British insurance company’s Irish unit in November 2013 and he is now taking a constructive dismissal case against them in the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

Giving evidence in the second day of his constructive dismissal hearing, Philip Smith  said that the second half of the draft report from RSA Insurance which related to "cultural issues", was a "character assassination" and was an absolute "hammer blow" to him.

The hearing heard that Mr Smith, a father-of-four, had previously "prided himself" on the "strong relations" that he had built up with team members right across the organisation and strongly refuted allegations which had been against him in the report.

He believes the claims made against his character, which were laid out in the report over a number of pages, were part of a "preordained outcome the company was seeking to achieve".

Read more: Former RSA executive alleges his former employer interfered with his attempts to obtain new job

The tribunal heard this morning that Mr Smith has failed to obtain employment since his "constructive dismissal" and he alleges that RSA personnel "proactively intervened" in his attempts.

Mr Smith yesterday claimed that the reserve margin in the Irish unit of was almost unique in terms of its scale and that it had been coined by senior group executives as the “treasure in the Irish caves”.

He alleges that he had been instructed that this was “a group asset” which was to be “used as the group saw fit”, which ultimately resulted in the Irish business having “no acorns put away for a rainy day”.

This policy meant that the company’s surplus was under when issues were discovered during a routine audit in 2013.

The hearing heard today that Mr Smith, with an address in Cabinteely, Dublin, was previously in receipt of a "base salary" of €405,000, as well as an average annual bonus of €100,000 per year and a car allowance which could be as high as €65,000 each year.

Read more: Former RSA boss says reserve fund was 'treasure in the caves'

Counsel for RSA Insurance told the hearing that Mr Smith had earned a total of €3.8m during his tenure with the company.

Mr Smith concluded giving evidence shortly before lunch and counsel for RSA Insurance opened their cross examination by questioning him about specific large claims, including one from 2013 which involved a drunk driver.

The committee was told that as a result of this incident, a 50-year-old doctor was killed.  And, Brian Moore, senior counsel for RSA, said that a reserve of €2.425m was internally proposed but was later reduced to €20,001.

Mr Moore told the hearing that Mr Smith said at the time said that they were awaiting medical evidence in the case, but Mr Smith said that he "wasn't aware of the detail of the case except it was a motoring injury claim".

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