On the Meaning of “War”

Many insurance policies contain a war exclusion precluding coverage for loss caused by war. But in world where violent conflicts involve a wide variety of different groups and parties, what exactly constitutes “war”? In a recent coverage dispute presenting this issue, a federal judge concluded that the 2014 armed conflict between Israel and Hamas disrupted its film production activities involved both “war” and  “warlike action,” and therefore that coverage for the Universal Cable Production for the costs it incurred as a result of the conflict was precluded under the company’s insurance policy. The case raises a number of interesting issues that are likely to recur in our current unstable and violent world. Northern District of California Judge Percy Anderson’s October 6, 2017 decision in the Universal Cable case can be found here. Continue Reading

D&O Insurance Coverage and the Rise of Appraisal Litigation

As I have detailed on this blog (most recently here), due to two Delaware court decisions — the Delaware Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Corwin v. KKR Financial Holdings LLC  (here) and the Delaware Chancery Court’s January 2016 court decision in the In re Trulia Shareholder litigation (here)—deal litigation that in the past would have been filed in Delaware is now being filed elsewhere. But while the deal litigation in Delaware generally may be declining, in recent years there has been a significant uptick in Delaware appraisal litigation. As these cases have become more common in recent years, the question of whether or not D&O insurance covers the costs companies incur in defending appraisal actions has become increasingly common as well. Indeed, in the October 11, 2017 Advisen Quarterly D&O Claims Trends Webinar (refer here), the question of D&O insurance coverage for appraisal claim-related defense expenses was a key topic of conversation. In the following post, I review the issues involved in the question of whether or not a D&O insurance covers the costs defendants incur in defending appraisal claims. Continue Reading

Supreme Court Docket: Is the Leidos Case a “Nothing Burger”?

In a post earlier this month, I summarized the three securities law cases that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear its current term. Among the three cases on the Court’s docket is Leidos, Inc. v. Indiana Public Retirement System. As discussed in greater detail here, in Leidos, the Court will address the question whether or not the alleged failure to make a disclosure required by Item 303 of Reg. S-K is an actionable omission under Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5. In an interesting September 26, 2017 article entitled “Ask Me No Questions and I Will Tell You No Lies: The Insignificance of Leidos Before the United States Supreme Court” (here), Stanford Law Professor Joseph Grundfest argues that the Leidos case is “not a big deal” and is a “nothing-burger,” because, he contends, regardless of which way the Court comes out in the case, the outcome will make little practical difference. Continue Reading

Addressing the Use of Confidential Witnesses in Securities Litigation

As a result of the PSLRA’s heightened pleading standard and pre-dismissal motion discovery bar, as well as the requirements of cases such as Tellabs, plaintiffs in liability suits under the federal securities laws frequently rely on confidential witnesses. This practice has led to  the “confidential witness problem” in securities litigation. In a September 25, 2017 post on The CLS Blue Sky Blog entitled “Confidential Distortion: Dealing with Confidential Witnesses in Securities Litigation” (here), Columbia Law School Professor John Coffee takes a look at the problems that have arisen in connection with confidential witness practices and the ways court have tried to deal with the problems. He then explores some possible “best practices” for courts and parties to use to try to avoid the problems, which I discuss below. Continue Reading

D&O Insurance and Insured Capacity

The insurance available under a D&O insurance policy does not protect insured individuals for all of their activities; rather, the policy protects the individuals only for their actions undertaken in their capacities as officer or directors of the insured organization. The policy does not protect the individuals for actions undertaken in their personal capacity or for actions undertaken as a result of their involvement with entities other than the insured organization.

 

A recent decision out of the District of North Dakota and applying North Dakota law illustrates the coverage-determinative importance of the question of capacity. In an October 3, 2017 opinion (here), District of North Dakota Judge Daniel Hovland held that because the allegations against the individual who was seeking coverage did not involve alleged actions undertaken in an insured capacity, the individual was not entitled to coverage under the policy. The ruling underscores the importance of capacity issues and also highlights how challenging these issues can sometimes be when individuals are acting in multiple capacities.      Continue Reading

Should Shareholder Derivative Litigation Be Eliminated?

Shareholder derivative lawsuits are notoriously difficult for claimants. In order to pursue a derivative suit, a shareholder plaintiff must overcome numerous procedural and pleading hurdles. Even when cases survive the initial obstacles, the ultimate outcome often consists of little more than the payment of the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees with slight benefit to the company in whose name the claim was ostensibly was pursued. In light of these considerations, UCLA law professor Stephen Bainbridge has a modest proposal: Eliminate derivative litigation altogether. In a brief October 3, 2017 post on his ProfessorBainbridge.com blog (here), Bainbridge suggests that we just do away with the whole inefficient process. Bainbridge raises a number of interesting points, but, as discussed below, while I agree with some of his concerns, I am not sure I agree with his proposed solution. Continue Reading

Thinking About Wage and Hour Claims and Management Liability Insurance

In the current litigation environment, employers face an ongoing threat of claims brought by employees alleging violations of wage and hour laws, often filed as class actions. These kinds of lawsuits can be expensive to defend and to resolve. In general, management liability insurers try to avoid providing coverage for these kinds of claims, except for very limited amounts of defense cost coverage. A recent district court decision holding that the management liability insurance policy of the women’s clothing retailer Talbots did not cover a wage and hour class action lawsuit pending against the company illustrates the barriers policyholders face in attempting to secure coverage for these kinds of claims. Both the policy language at issue and the outcome of the Talbots insurance coverage dispute arguably are unremarkable. However, the outcome does raise questions about whether there might be ways for policyholders at least to obtain effective defense cost coverage for these kinds of claims. Continue Reading

Guest Post: Think the SEC EDGAR Data Breach Involved Insider Trading? Think Again.

The SEC’s disclosure that its EDGAR system had been had hacked was big news last week, as was the accompanying disclosure that the information accessed may have been used for improper trading. In the following guest post, John Reed Stark takes a look at the interesting and important legal issues that might arise if the authorities were to try to pursue claims against persons trying to trade on the information stolen from the SEC.  John is President of John Reed Stark Consulting and former Chief of the SEC’s Office of Internet Enforcement. I would like to thank John for his willingness to allow me to publish his article on this site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this site’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is John’s guest post. Continue Reading

Three Key Securities Law Cases on Supreme Court’s Docket as Term Begins

For almost the entire time that there have even been federal securities laws, the U.S. Supreme Court only rarely and infrequently agreed to take up cases arising securities cases. Until recently, years would pass between the times that securities cases appeared on the Supreme Court’s docket. For some reason, beginning around the middle of the last decade, the Court has become increasingly willing to take up securities cases. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2017-2018 term, which commences on Monday, is no exception to this recent trend. There are three important securities cases on the Court’s docket for the upcoming term, and these cases could have, both individually and collectively, a significant impact on many securities law cases and on securities litigation in general. Continue Reading

Bulletin from Boston

Fenway Park

The D&O Diary was on assignment in Boston last week, to attend and participate in the PLUS Boston Chapter event and to participate in some other meetings as well – including a memorable event at Fenway Park (pictured left). I was fortunate to enjoy some beautiful weather while I was in Beantown. I realized shortly after my arrival that it has been a while since I have been to Boston. It is remarkable what has happened to the city in the interim – it really has been transformed. Continue Reading

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