A company faces two class action lawsuits—filed by different plaintiffs, complaining of different allegedly wrongful conduct, asserting different causes of action subject to different burdens of proof, and seeking different relief based on different time periods for the alleged harm. Those facts suggest the suits are not “fundamentally identical,” but that is what a Delaware Superior Court recently concluded in barring coverage for a policyholder seeking to recover for a suit the court deemed “related” to an earlier lawsuit first made outside the policy’s coverage period. First Solar Inc. v. National Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa., No. N20C-10-156 MMJ CCLD (Del. Super. Ct. June 23, 2021). The decision, which is not on all fours with some of the authority upon which it relies, underscores the inherent unpredictability of “related” claim disputes and need for careful analysis of the policy language against the factual and legal bases of the underlying claims.
Continue Reading When “Substantially Similar” Means “Fundamentally Identical”: Delaware Court Enforces Related Claim Provision to Deny D&O Coverage for Securities Class Action

From business interruption to biometric privacy, the first half of 2021 has already seen its fair share of significant insurance rulings. Law360 recently interviewed Hunton insurance counsel Geoffrey Fehling for an article analyzing the biggest insurance coverage cases and how they have impacted the legal landscape for policyholders and insurers.
Continue Reading Law360 Interviews Hunton Insurance Recovery Counsel Geoffrey Fehling About 2021’s Top Insurance Decisions

Hunton Andrews Kurth Counsel Geoffrey Fehling was quoted on June 4 in a Law360 article titled “FCPA’s High Costs May Cause Tightening In D&O Market.” The article analyzed heightened FCPA enforcement risks faced by corporate policyholders, which could lead to an even harder market for directors and officers insurance coverage for those exposures, according to Fehling and other legal experts interviewed for the article. Citing recent government-led investigations into FCPA violations, the article discussed, among other things, three key expenses large corporate policyholders must consider when being investigated for a FCPA violation: costs to investigate the alleged violation, costs for any liability for a violation supported by evidence, and costs to shareholders for potential securities or other follow-on litigation.
Continue Reading Hunton Andrews Kurth Counsel Geoffrey Fehling Quoted in Law360 Article on D&O Coverage for FCPA Claims

Hunton Andrews Kurth’s insurance coverage team recently published a client alert discussing a D&O coverage dispute arising from a contractual liability exclusion.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a D&O liability insurer could not rely on ambiguous endorsements as a basis to deny coverage for claims brought by investors against its insured company and its CEO. Reversing the Eastern District of Missouri, the appellate court in Verto Medical Solutions LLC, et al. v. Allied World Specialty Insurance Co., No.19-3511 (8th Cir.), found the policy ambiguous as to whether a contractual liability exclusion had been deleted by endorsement and thus, the insurer must provide coverage for the underlying claims.
Continue Reading D&O Insurer Muted by “Uncertainty” in Contract Exclusion, and “Complicated” Endorsements, in Headphone Manufacturer’s Liability Claim

Hunton insurance coverage attorney Geoffrey Fehling recently presented on new developments in the area of D&O liability insurance at the Director and Officer Liability Committee’s spring meeting, which concluded a week of programming, networking, and other events at the 2021 ABA Business Law Virtual Spring Meeting. The mission of the Committee on Director and Officer

Hunton Andrews Kurth’s insurance coverage team recently published a client alert discussing a D&O coverage dispute arising from a credit union’s post-acquisition fraud claims.

Everest National Insurance Company has filed a lawsuit denying any obligation to cover a post-acquisition lawsuit by a credit union alleging fraud against two banks and their executives. The seller paid additional premium for an extended reporting period to report claims based on pre-acquisition wrongful conduct, but the insurer denied coverage on the ground that any claims asserted by the buyer are excluded under the D&O policy’s “insured vs. insured” exclusion. The decision underscores the importance of not only ensuring continuity of D&O coverage before and after a transaction but also evaluating all possible claim scenarios arising out of a deal to ensure that all stakeholders are adequately protected.


Continue Reading Insurer Denies Coverage for Deal Litigation Despite Bank Purchasing Runoff Coverage for Pre-Acquisition Alleged Wrongful Acts

In another pro-policyholder ruling in Delaware, a Delaware Superior Court judge has denied a group of insurers’ application for certification of interlocutory appeal in the long-running D&O dispute, Verizon Communications Inc. et al. v. National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, PA, et al., C.A. No. N18C-08-086 EMD CCLD (Del. Super. March 16, 2021). The court’s most recent decision arises out of a February 23 ruling that Verizon could recover $24 million in legal fees incurred in defense of a fraudulent transfer lawsuit brought by a bankruptcy trustee. When the insurers’ sought to appeal this interlocutory decision, the court refused, concluding that the benefits of an immediate appeal, if any, do not outweigh the probable costs. The decision will permit the orderly resolution of what the court deemed to be “standard contract law principles,” which the insurers had failed to demonstrate negated coverage.

Continue Reading Delaware Court Answers Verizon’s Call, Denying Insurers’ Interlocutory Appeal

On March 3, 2021, the Delaware Supreme Court issued a landmark decision holding that Delaware law should be applied in disputes over directors and officers liability (“D&O”) insurance policies sold to companies incorporated in Delaware. RSUI Indem. Co. v. Murdock, et al. No. 154, 2020, C.A. No. N16C-01-104 CCLD (Del. Mar. 3, 2021). The court addressed this and other key issues in the long-running dispute over D&O insurance purchased by Dole Food Company, specifically addressing issues raised by Dole’s eighth-layer excess insurer, RSUI, which provided $10 million coverage excess of $75 million.

The court decided multiple important issues, finding that liability for alleged fraud is insurable under Delaware public policy, RSUI’s Profit/Fraud Exclusion did not bar coverage because there had been no “final adjudication” of fraud, and the “larger sums rule” governed allocation issues. However, among these important rulings, the most significant may be the Supreme Court’s ruling that Delaware governs the interpretation of D&O insurance issued to a company incorporated in Delaware.  The court specifically rejected the insurer’s arguments that California law (which might preclude coverage) should apply under a policy that was purchased and issued in California to a Delaware corporation headquartered in California.


Continue Reading Delaware Supreme Court Doles Out Landmark Choice-of-Law Decision in Dole Food Case

From event-driven litigation to government investigations, 2020 has brought a variety of directors’ and officers’ liability exposures arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking toward the new year, we expect that robust D&O insurance programs will remain of critical importance for companies and their officers and directors in 2021 and beyond.

Continue Reading UK Bill to Create Stricter Reign Over Acquisitions Implicating D&O Insurance