In an article appearing in Electric Light & Power, Hunton insurance recovery lawyers, Lawrence Bracken, Sergio Oehninger and Alexander Russo discuss the insurability of losses resulting from the recent wildfires in California. Many affected by the tragedy have tried to shift responsibility to utility and power companies, which also may face subrogation claims from insurers that paid property and business owners for first-party losses. In addition, liability insurance programs may help defray costs imposed upon those believed to be at fault, including costs resulting from shareholder and investor suits, regulatory and governmental investigations, fines and penalties, and future legal settlements.
In a recent Client Alert, Hunton insurance lawyers Mike Levine, Sergio Oehninger and Josh Paster discuss the impact of the Second Circuit’s recent opinion in Patriarch Partners, LLC v. Axis Insurance Co., where the Court confirmed that a warranty letter accompanying the policyholder’s insurance application barred coverage for a lengthy SEC investigation. The decision underscores the importance of understanding how a policy’s language and definitions impact the scope of information that policyholders must consider when representing facts and circumstances in insurance applications. The opinion left intact the lower court’s finding that the SEC subpoena constituted a “demand for non-monetary relief” and thus qualified as a “Claim” under the directors and officers (D&O) insurance policy. The Second Circuit and Southern District’s rulings in Patriarch confirm that government subpoenas or civil investigative demands constitute a “Claim” that ought to trigger coverage under fairly standard D&O policy language. Policyholders facing government subpoenas, civil investigative demands, or other formal or informal government demands should not hesitate to seek coverage for such costs under their D&O insurance policies.
Read the full alert here.
In a victory for policyholders, a New York trial court rejected insurers’ summary judgment arguments, ruling that an insurer must establish a common “fact, circumstance, situation, transaction or event” underlying an investigation before it can rely on a prior and pending litigation and investigation (“PPLI”) exclusion based on that earlier investigation. The court further ruled that the insurer cannot base its coverage denial on a common “fact, circumstance, situation, transaction or event” learned during the investigation.
The Northern District of Illinois in Astellas US Holding, Inc. v. Starr Indemnity and Liability Co., 2018 WL 2431969, at *1 (N.D. Ill. May 30, 2018) held that a U.S. Department of Justice subpoena demanding documents relating to a government investigation constitutes a “Claim.”
Drug-maker Pfizer and one of its excess insurers, North River, are in the middle of a contentious dispute regarding the proper forum for their coverage dispute over directors and officers liability insurance following both parties’ race to the courthouse to file competing lawsuits in 2015. Pfizer argues that its own preferred forum of Delaware (where Pfizer is incorporated) is correct, while North River counters that New York (where Pfizer’s headquarters and its broker are located) is the proper forum. The dispute, which involves competing motions in Delaware and New York courts, highlights the importance of both the timing and location of forum selection in litigating insurance coverage disputes.
May 25, 2018 should be a day circled on many company calendars. On that day, the European Union’s long-awaited Global Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) will go into effect. It is crucial for U.S. companies to prepare for the GDPR, as they, too, will be required to comply with a new set of data privacy rules if they are handling data from EU-based customers, suppliers, or affiliates. As long as you collect personal or behavioral data from someone in the EU, you must comply with the GDPR.
Hunton insurance recovery partner, Syed Ahmad, was recently asked to comment by Law360 on a Delaware Superior Court decision finding that state law does not preclude D&O insurance coverage for fraud-based claims against two Dole Food Co. executives, who are seeking to force several excess insurers to help pay for $222 million in settlements they reached to resolve stockholder suits accusing them of driving down Dole’s price before a 2013 take-private deal. According the Ahmad, the ruling is likely to carry strong precedential effect due to the solid reasoning of the court’s decision, which is premised on the Delaware Supreme Court’s 1986 decision in Whalen v. On-Deck Inc., which upheld the availability of coverage for punitive damages under Delaware law.
In an article recently featured on The D&O Diary, Hunton & Williams insurance lawyers Syed Ahmad, Brittany Davidson, and Andrea DeField discuss a recent New York trial court’s award of an injunction requiring D&O insurers to advance defense costs to their insured pending resolution of the underlying lawsuits. The full article can be found here.
The calendar may have started anew in 2018, but federal regulators have affirmed that they are still firmly focused on one of 2017’s emerging issues—cryptocurrencies and, more specifically, initial coin offerings (ICO).
Hunton & Williams insurance partner, Syed Ahmad, was quoted twice in Law360 concerning significant insurance cases to watch in 2018. On January 1, 2018, Ahmad noted that Pitzer College v. Indian Harbor Insurance Co., pending in the California Supreme Court, “can be significant for coverage disputes in California because the California rule could override the law of the state that would apply otherwise, even if the parties agreed to another state’s law governing,” On January 9, 2018, Ahmad was again asked by Law360 to comment on key D&O cases that will likely be decided in 2018. Ahmad noted that in Patriarch Partners LLC v. Axis Insurance Co., pending in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Patriarch’s appeal presents an unusual situation in which a policyholder is arguing that various developments in an ongoing SEC investigation don’t constitute a claim under a D&O policy, in order to avoid the application of an exclusion. In other circumstances, it may be favorable for a policyholder to assert that a preliminary step in an SEC probe is a claim, so as to maximize coverage. According to Ahmad, the district court didn’t fully address how, in the context of the specific policy language at issue, a non-public order by the SEC could qualify as a claim. “As Patriarch argues, ‘until an agency makes a demand upon the target under legal compulsion, there may be no way for a policyholder to even know that it is being investigated, that an order authorizing investigation has been issued against it or what the order of investigation says,'” Ahmad said, quoting from Patriarch’s appellate brief.