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.
The frequency and magnitude of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (FCPA) (15 U.S.C. § 78dd-1, et seq.) investigations and claims continue to grow. Last month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced that Halliburton Co. had agreed to pay $29.2 million in fines and penalties to settle allegations that its operations in Angola and Iraq violated the FCPA’s books and records and internal accounting controls provisions. In its press release, Halliburton vowed that it had “continuously enhanced its global ethics and compliance program” since first receiving an anonymous tip in December 2010, but the recent settlement serves as a reminder that even the most robust compliance program cannot guarantee that FCPA violations will not occur.
Private equity investors face unique challenges when procuring or renewing their liability insurance programs. For example, investors typically must complete lengthy applications or sign warranty and representation letters from their prospective insurers that inquire into knowledge by any potential insured as to any acts or omissions that could potentially give rise to a claim. These overbroad and often vague inquiries are problematic for private equity investors who would theoretically have to interview every employee, manager, or director at every subsidiary, fund, and portfolio company (if insureds) to discern whether any person has knowledge of such an act or omission. My colleagues Syed Ahmad and Andrea DeField recently authored an article appearing in the Bloomberg Law Securities Regulation & Law Report™ in which they address this issue and others as part of their Top 5 Coverage Issues Private Equity Investors Should Consider. The full article is available here.
Bear Stearns’ insurers were recently dealt a fatal blow, when the trial court granted Bear Stearns’ motion for summary judgment and denied all insurers’ motions (and defenses). See J.P. Morgan Sec. Inc. v. Vigilant Ins. Co., 2017 N.Y. Slip Op. 27127, 11 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2017). The court found that the documentary and testamentary evidence presented by Bear Sterns overwhelmingly demonstrated that Bear Stearns’ misconduct profited their customers instead of resulting in Bear Stearns’ own “ill-gotten gains.” The court also found the settlement amounts reached by Bear Stearns in the SEC action and the private civil suits to be reasonable.