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.
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.
In an article published in Law360, Hunton & Williams LLP partners Walter Andrews, Malcolm Weiss, and I discuss two recent decisions in Tree Top Inc. v. Starr Indem. & Liab. Co., No. 1:15-CV-03155-SMJ, 2017 WL 5664718 (E.D. Wash. Nov. 21, 2017). There, the Eastern District of Washington rejected an insurer’s attempt to escape insurance coverage for a Proposition 65 lawsuit filed against juice-maker Tree Top Inc.
Continue Reading “3 Takeaways Squeezed Out of Juicer’s Insurance Battle” – Hunton Attorneys Discuss Insurance Coverage for Prop. 65 Claims and Key Takeaways from Recent Set of Washington District Court Rulings.
Corporate policyholders should carefully consider insurance coverage implications when structuring mergers, acquisitions, or other transactions that may impact available insurance assets. A New Jersey federal court recently granted summary judgment for a surviving bank asserting coverage rights under a D&O policy issued to an entity that dissolved in a statutory merger, based in part on the wording of the parties’ merger agreement structuring the transaction in accordance with the New Jersey Business Corporation Act (“NJBCA”).
Does the term “wrongful act” always require that the conduct at issue be “wrongful”? In at least one D&O insurance policy, the answer may not be as clear as it seems. A federal district court in Texas recently denied an insurer’s motion to dismiss a company’s coverage claim for nearly $5 million in costs the company incurred defending a statutory appraisal lawsuit filed by disgruntled shareholders, citing the D&O policy’s “terribly” written definition of “wrongful act,” which may have been written so broadly that it provides coverage for “acts” that are not actually “wrongful.”
On August 29, 2017, my colleagues Lawrence J. Bracken, Michael Levine, and Geoffrey Fehling published an article in Law360 discussing the Ninth Circuit’s recent decision rejecting coverage for the Los Angeles Lakers’ director’s and officer’s (D&O) insurance claim arising from a fan’s class action lawsuit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), based on a broadly-worded invasion of privacy exclusion in the Lakers’ D&O insurance policy. A split Ninth Circuit panel held that “[b]ecause a TCPA claim is inherently an invasion of privacy claim, [the insurer] correctly concluded that [the claimant]’s TCPA claims fell under the Policy’s broad exclusionary clause.” The full article is available here.
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.
A case decided last week by the Sixth Circuit illustrates the importance of seeking bankruptcy claim policy amendments when placing D&O coverage. Indian Harbor Ins. Co. v. Zucker (6th Cir. Jun. 20, 2017) involved the application of the insured-vs.-insured exclusion and specifically, whether the policy’s insured-vs.-insured exclusion precluded coverage for a claim brought by a company’s liquidating trust, to which the company’s claims had been assigned by the company as debtor-in-possession after the company filed for bankruptcy. After the company’s claims were assigned to the liquidating trust, the trustee sued several of the company’s former executives for breach of fiduciary duty. Continue Reading Sixth Circuit Rules That Insured-vs.-Insured Exclusion Bars Coverage for Liquidation Trustee’s Claim
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.