Last week, the Delaware Insurance Commissioner announced a series of process and regulatory improvements to the state’s captive regime. Building upon last year’s significant amendments to DGCL 145(g) expressly permitting captives to cover D&O liability, Bulletin No. 14 outlines several requirements for captives to write Side A D&O policies for Delaware corporations, including several process changes intended to improve approval timelines and speed to market.Continue Reading Delaware Issues Regulatory Guidance, Process Improvements, for D&O Captives
As discussed in a recent client alert, a Delaware court issued a significant opinion in a directors and officers liability claim involving a special purpose acquisition company. In an issue of first impression in Delaware, the Superior Court in Clover Health Investments Corp. v. Berkley Insurance Co. held that directors and officers of the post-merger entity were “Insured Persons” under the SPAC’s D&O policy because they were acting in “functionally equivalent” roles to directors and officers of the SPAC when the alleged pre-merger wrongful conduct took place. The court’s pro-policyholder rulings on coverage for government investigations, based on an ambiguous definition of “Claim,” and allocation of defense costs under the Larger Settlement Rule also have potential ramifications on future D&O claims in Delaware outside of SPAC deals.
Continue Reading Delaware Court Finds Broad D&O Coverage for Directors and Officers in SPAC Claim
The Delaware Chancery Court recently held that the duty of oversight extended to corporate officers. The important decision came after McDonald’s shareholders sued the company’s former head of human resources, alleging that the officer breached his duty of oversight by “allowing a corporate culture to develop that condoned sexual harassment and misconduct.” In that same decision, Vice Chancellor Laster also determined that acts of sexual harassment can constitute a breach of fiduciary duty. Officers are rightly focused on the potential ramifications on their personal liability following the ruling. But that potential increased exposure also raises several insurance implications for companies to consider while procuring and renewing directors and officers insurance coverage.Continue Reading Increased Risks, D&O Insurance Considerations, Following Delaware’s Extended Oversight Duties
The Delaware legislature recently passed an amendment to the statute governing Delaware corporations’ ability to indemnify directors and officers. That statute—8 Del. Law 145—provides that Delaware corporations “may” purchase “insurance” to insure liability of their directors, officers, employees, and agents “whether or not the corporation would have the power to indemnify such person against such liability.” The recent amendment clarifies that “insurance” includes captive insurance. It states: “For purposes of this subsection, insurance shall include any insurance provided directly or indirectly (including pursuant to any fronting or reinsurance arrangement) by or through a captive insurance company organized and licensed in compliance with the laws of any jurisdiction . . . .”…
Continue Reading Delaware Corporations May Use Captives to Insure Non-Indemnifiable Loss
We have written over the past year about a string of pro-policyholder decisions from Delaware courts. One policyholder, however, recently had its claims dismissed based on application of Delaware law, based on one of 2020’s important D&O cases that limited coverage for appraisal actions initiated by stockholders pursuant to Title 8, Section 262 of the Delaware Code. In Stillwater Mining Co. v. National Union, the Delaware Superior Court explained that Stillwater had seized upon the Court’s 2019 opinion in Solera Holdings v. XL Specialty, which had held that a Section 262 appraisal action constituted a “securities claim” because it alleged a “violation” of state statutory or common law regulating securities. The policyholder alleged in its complaint that Delaware law governed the D&O policy, but when the Delaware Supreme Court reversed Solera, Stillwater “pivoted” to the view that Montana law, rather than Delaware law, governed the policy.
Continue Reading Rare Imbalance?—Delaware’s “Center of Gravity” in D&O Policies Dooms Mining Co.’s Appraisal Coverage Claim, But Supreme Court Appraisal Review Looms Large
Policyholders have scored another victory in the Delaware Superior Court, this time on the issue of whether a “mergers and acquisition” endorsement required payment of a higher retention in two securities class actions. In August, we reported that, in CVR Refining, LP v. XL Specialty Insurance Co., No. N21C-01-260 EMD CCLD, 2021 WL 3523925 (Del. Super. Ct. Aug. 11, 2021), a Delaware Superior Court judge upheld a policyholder’s preferred forum in Delaware, denying five insurers’ motion to dismiss or stay the Delaware coverage action filed after the insurers had filed suit preemptively in Texas.
Continue Reading Policyholder Prevails (Again) in Delaware D&O Retention Dispute
Just as the Ohio and Delaware supreme courts gear up for oral argument – September 8th and 22nd, respectively – on whether insurers must defend opioid distributors in lawsuits related to the opioid crisis, Hunton Andrews Kurth Partner Syed Ahmad weighed in with the policyholders’ prospective for Law360. “These appeals are significant,” Ahmad explained (and insurers’ counsel agreed), “because of the potential far-reaching impact on the scope of general liability coverage.”…
Continue Reading Ahmad Weighs In: What’s at Stake for Policyholders as Opioid Coverage Battles Enter the Appellate Ring
A federal court in New York denied an insurer’s attempt to dismiss a coverage dispute, rejecting the insurer’s contention that the individual insured directors were “necessary” parties. The insurer argued that, because the outcome of the coverage suit could jeopardize the directors’ indemnity and thereby implicate the D&O policy’s Side A coverage for non-indemnified losses, the directors had an indispensable interest in the litigation. The court disagreed.
The coverage dispute in LRN Corp. v. Markel Insurance Co., 1:20-cv-08431 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 23, 2021), arose from an underlying lawsuit in the Delaware Chancery Court brought by an LRN shareholder against the company and three of its directors. The plaintiff in the underlying lawsuit alleged that a self-tender offer by LRN to acquire shares of LRN’s common stock was coercive and part of a scheme that was in part orchestrated by the LRN’s directors. LRN, though dismissed from the underlying lawsuit, continued to pay legal fees for the named directors.
Continue Reading Insured Directors Not “Necessary” for Complete Adjudication of Insurer’s Coverage Obligations
A Delaware Superior Court judge recently upheld a policyholder’s preferred forum in Delaware, denying five insurers’ motion to dismiss or stay the Delaware coverage action filed after the insurers had filed suit preemptively in Texas. The court in CVR Refining, LP v. XL Specialty Insurance Co., No. N21C-01-260 EMD CCLD, 2021 WL 3523925 (Del. Super. Ct. Aug. 11, 2021), held that, although the insurers (XL Specialty, Twin City Fire, Allianz Global Risks US, Argonaut, and Allied World) filed suit three days before the insureds, both suits were filed “contemporaneously” under Delaware law and that the insurers had failed to demonstrate any “overwhelming hardship” necessary to dismiss the case. The court also found that, since the insurers were all licensed to do business in Delaware, they could not show overwhelming hardship. Thus, the policyholder’s preference to litigate its insurance claims in Delaware must stand.
Continue Reading Delaware Court Upholds Policyholder’s Choice of Forum, Denies Insurers’ “First-Filed” Argument Following Race to the Courthouse
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