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British insurer Aviva fires entire staff — by mistake

Aviva, Britain's second-biggest insurer, sent an email to 1,300 employees globally telling them to turn over company property as they left the building — and then sent out a retraction and an apology.
Aviva, Britain's largest insurance company's headquarters are pictured in London, 22 March 2006. (AFP/Getty Images)

A British insurer has mistakenly sent an email firing its entire staff, according to news reports.

The email, sent by the human resources department of Aviva, Britain's second-biggest insurer, to 1,300 employees globally told recipients to turn over company property as they left the building and reminded them of their obligation to guard the firm's confidential information, Bloomberg cited Paul Lockstone, spokesman for the unit of the
London-based insurer, as saying. 

"It was intended that this email should have gone to one single person," Lockstone said. "Unfortunately, as a result of a clerical error, it was sent to all of the Investors staff worldwide.

"From time to time, things go wrong," he said, adding that most people recognized immediately that the email was a mistake.

Or did they?

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Aviva has been scaling back its asset-management business as the European debt crisis and the deteriorating UK economy crimps sales.

According to the Independent, Aviva, which trails behind rival Prudential at less than half the market value, is undertaking a major overhaul of the group.

The insurer said in January it would cut 160 jobs at the unit. And last week, it announced the departure of three of the company's most senior directors, who run the group's European, North American and asset management businesses.

Britain's Daily Telegraph reported that there was a “stunned silence” throughout at least one of the company’s offices as staff read the email. 

The email closed with: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and wish you all the best for the future.”

The human resources department reportedly issued an apology within minutes of the message being sent.

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