The comments were made amid a staff poaching accusation

Gallagher UK chief executive Simon Matson has apologised for the racist and abusive comments directed at former employees who left subsidiary Alesco to join companies belonging to rival Ardonagh.

The staff poaching allegation led to an acrimonious court case between the two brokers, during which evidence was heard of Matson and other senior leadership members referring to broker Nawaf Hasan as a “complicated fat Arab” in a WhatsApp message. Gallagher’s chief operating officer Gary Lashmar responded with “and a very greedy one”.

Gallagher’s international commercial director, Vyvienne Wade, was also under scrutiny for making “a wholly gratuitous and in context grossly insulting reference” to Hasan’s faith.

Wade referred to the Qur’an when speaking about Hasan in an email exchange with Matson, writing about “awaiting 72 virgins”.

A public apology

In a statement issued today by Gallagher, Matson said: ”I am very sorry for the insensitive comments that were made by me and other individuals, which absolutely do not reflect the culture within our organisation.

“We are incredibly proud of the strong and positive culture we have at Gallagher, something that is directly reflected in the exceptionally high scores our colleagues gave for important cultural indicators such as trust, respect, pride, diversity and advocacy, in our annual engagement survey, all of which have increased further in the last 12 months.”

This is the first overt apology from Matson regarding his comments and behaviour brought to light by the poaching case.

Culture review

Hasan had previously demanded Gallagher issue an apology for the comments, which were only disclosed to him during the trial.

“I was shocked and hurt by the racist and Islamophobic language used by former colleagues who continue to hold senior positions at AJ Gallagher and in light of the comments, I fully expect a public apology from The Gallagher Group,” he said at the end of October. 

Gallagher’s UK holdings board non-executive chair Sue Langley, added: “The UK board undertook a fundamental review with expert external input when this matter first came to light six months ago.

”At Gallagher we adopt the highest standards to promote an inclusive culture, and this will remain a priority for the board.

”We are committed to working in partnership with the market to cultivate a positive, diverse and inclusive insurance industry and we will be appointing a new head of CSR to work with our existing team to build momentum still further, internally and within the wider insurance market.”