Financial Institution Bond

A federal court last month turned away an insurer’s legal arguments seeking to avoid financial institution bond coverage for a bank’s losses resulting from a borrower’s use of forged documents to obtain a $3.6 million loan.  In doing so, the Arizona court rejected Everest National Insurance Company’s narrow construction of the bond’s “Securities” insuring agreement and ruled that the notice-prejudice rule applies to a financial institution bond.

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Whether a policyholder’s losses are “direct” or “indirect” can be coverage-determinative. Most financial institution bonds exclude “indirect” or “consequential” losses. A recent decision in Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Arch Ins. Co., No. CV C14-0545RSL, 2017 WL 5289547 (W.D. Wash. Nov. 13, 2017) addressed the issue of “direct” versus “indirect” losses in a dispute under a financial institution bond issued by Arch Insurance Company (Arch) to Washington Mutual Bank (WaMu). The court held that WaMu’s losses resulting from its purchase of fraudulent loans were “direct” losses, and that WaMu’s sale and contractual obligation to repurchase the fraudulent loans did not convert its losses from direct to indirect.
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Coverage often turns on the meaning of a single word or phrase in an insurance policy. The definition of “counterfeit” in financial institution bonds can be especially tricky. On June 12, 2017, the court in Harvard Sav. Bank v. Sec. Nat’l Ins. Co., No. 15-CV-11674, 2017 WL 2560900, at *1 (N.D. Ill. June 12, 2017) addressed the definition of “counterfeit” in the financial institution bond issued by Security National Insurance Company to Harvard Savings Bank. As the ruling illustrates, terminology that may appear to be insignificant can often make all the difference between millions of dollars in recovery versus no coverage being available.
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