Aetna Inc., the biggest U.S. health insurer, is accused in a suit by rival WellPoint Health Networks Inc. of violating an agreement by hiring a WellPoint executive.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in New York, said the two companies agreed in August 2000 "not to solicit or hire certain employees of the other for a one-year period" while WellPoint and Aetna evaluated a "possible negotiated transaction."
Despite the agreement, the lawsuit said, Aetna hired WellPoint executive Ronald A. Williams on March 15 as chief of health operations. Williams was president of the large-group division of Thousand Oaks-based WellPoint, one of California's biggest health insurers.
The complaint said Williams has provided Aetna "confidential and proprietary information."
An Aetna spokesman denied the accusations.