Broker begins legal action against wholesale managing director after defection to THB.

Heath Lambert has taken legal action against a former director over the length of his gardening leave after he defected to rival broker THB.

It is understood that Heath Lambert employed a private investigator to monitor the movements of its former wholesale managing director Graham Lawrenson.

A source close to the dispute said that legal proceedings were issued by Heath Lambert after Lawrenson defected to THB to take over its wholesale operation.

The source added that the matter was purely about Heath Lambert protecting its business interests. He said that the dispute centred upon how much notice Lawrenson should serve as he was leaving to go to a rival company. He said: “There is absolutely no evidence he was poaching clients or doing anything improper. He’s now working officially for THB, but Heath Lambert will be carefully monitoring his restrictive covenant terms.”

A Heath Lambert spokesman confirmed the legal action against Lawrenson. The spokesman refused to comment on the alleged involvement of the private detective but said: “We accept that people move around. We took the necessary steps to protect the business and our clients.”

Both THB and Lawrenson declined to comment.

The development is the latest poaching bust up to hit the market. Last week it emerged in a High Court writ that broking giant Willis has implicated Marsh UK aviation chief executive Simon Harker in a conspiracy to poach details of its aviation accounts and employees, including head of African aviation Michael Moran.

Marsh and Willis both refused to comment on the proceedings.

The details of the legal dispute come as Heath Lambert chief executive Adrian Colosso admitted that there is a possibility Heath Lambert may be sold following a review by financial adviser Hawkpoint.

Other options include refinancing the business or floating on the stock exchange.

A senior industry source added that Heath Lambert needed to protect its position going forward. He said: “If senior people are to leave then the firm’s business interests need to be safeguarded. Heath needs to be seen to be acting upon senior defections like this – especially if they are considering selling the business or refinancing it to take it forward.”

At the time Lawrenson joined THB, chief executive Frank Murphy said: “Graham and his team are well-respected in their specialist fields and represent an excellent opportunity to help THB expand further into the UK wholesale business.”

Four further Heath Lambert employees – Colin Jackson, Andy Wigg, Barry Jones and Jim Quinton – have joined THB wholesale team in recent months.