Chicago, Illinois—Today, an Illinois state court judge issued a ruling that contained good news for the National Association of Professional Agents (“NAPAA”) and for the individual agents who are suing Allstate for various breach of contract claims.
First, the judge ruled that NAPAA did have standing to bring the claims against Allstate on behalf of its members. “The court recognized that some of the claims against Allstate impact agents across the nation,” said NAPAA's Executive Director, Ted Paris. “It is critical that our members understand that NAPAA exists in order to help support them in multiple ways—and one important way is by ensuring that Allstate is living up to the terms of its contract with agents. The judges ruling enables NAPAA to continue this fight for agents' interests.”
Second, the judge refused to dismiss some claims brought by NAPAA against Allstate for breaching the contract by allowing Independent Agents (“IAs”) to sell in territories serviced by Exclusive Agents (“EAs”). Allstate has promised, in public statements and over its history with agents, that IAs will not compete in areas already serviced by EAs. Instead of abiding by its own statements, Allstate has authorized hundreds of IAs to directly compete in the same areas served by EAs.
In addition, NAPAA's fight continues against Allstate's implementation of “Allstate Agency Voice”—a VOIP telephone system Allstate is forcing upon agents. Allstate's contract with EAs specifically states that EAs are responsible for providing and paying for their own telephone systems. But now, Allstate removes that contractual benefit from agents—they can no longer shop for the best telephone system for their agency. With AAV, Allstate has removed that advantage from agents while still forcing the agents to pay for AAV. Although the judge did not grant NAPAA's request that Allstate's implementation of AAV be halted, while the claim proceeds, the judge did indicate that, if this claim is ultimately successful, agents might be entitled to damages.
Finally, the judge refused to dismiss any of the claims brought by individual agents for various breaches of contract, including unjust terminations for cause and improper interference with the sale of their agencies. One of the primary benefits of being an EA with Allstate is your ability to sell your book of business. Allstate does not have the right to interfere in the negotiations between an EA who is selling his book and potential buyers. But Allstate did just that—steering potential buyers away from purchasing one EA's book, and guiding that buyer to other EAs instead; interfering directly with negotiations regarding selling price, and forcing agencies to be split before selling. In addition, Allstate unjustly terminated agents for alleged infractions. But the reality is, these same agents were some of the most successful agents who were earning high commissions from Allstate.
“We are thrilled that we can continue to fight for what is right in this case,” stated James Bopp, Jr., lead counsel for NAPAA and the individual agents. “Contracts mean something, and powerful, large corporations do not have the right to violate their contracts. This is especially true when a company like Allstate writes the contract and requires the agents to sign the contract, as written, with no negotiation as to its terms. We look forward to working with NAPAA to vindicate the agents' rights against Allstate.”