An inevitable part of the current wave of bank failures has been the FDIC’s filing of lawsuits against former directors and officers of the failed institutions. And though the FDIC’s initiation of this litigation has been gradual, the lawsuits have now started to accumulate in significant numbers. And just as this FDIC litigation was perhaps inevitable once the banks started to faile, so too it was also perhaps inevitable that the FDIC lawsuits would be accompanied by D&O insurance coverage litigation.
As discussed below, the failed bank insurance coverage lawsuits are now starting to arrive. If the initial cases are any indication, one of the main coverage battlegrounds will be the typical D&O insurance policy’s Insured vs. Insured exclusion. Specifically, the question will be whether the FDIC as receiver pursuing the failed bank’s claim against the bank’s former directors and officers is acting as an “insured” under the D&O policy so as to preclude coverage under the policy.
First up in this analysis is Michigan Heritage Bank of Farmington Hills, Michigan, which failed on August 29, 2009 (about which refer here). As discussed in greater detail here, on August 8, 2011, the FDIC, as the bank’s receiver, filed a lawsuits in the Eastern District of Michigan against a single former officer of the bank.
What followed next is that on November 1, 2011, Michigan Heritage’s D&O insurer filed an action in the Eastern District of Michigan seeking a judicial declaration that there is no coverage for the underlying lawsuit or for the bank officer’s defense expenses under the bank’s D&O policy. A copy of the insurer’s declaratory judgment complaint can be found here.
Among other things, the carrier seeks a judicial declaration that the policy’s Insured vs. Insured exclusion precludes coverage for the underlying lawsuit. The insurer’s argument is that as the bank’s receiver, the FDIC is asserting the bank’s own claims and is seeking to recover the bank’s losses. Therefore, the carrier contends, the FDIC’s lawsuit is a claim “by, on behalf of, or at the behest of” the bank, and as the bank and the defendant loan officer are both insureds under the policy, the policy’s Insured vs. Insured exclusion precludes coverage.
A very similar sequence has also followed with respect to Westernbank, of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, which failed on April 30, 2010. As reflected here, on December 17, 2010, the FDIC, through its outside counsel, sent a letter to Westernbank’s D&O insurer asserting claims against the bank’s former directors and officers.
Westernbank’s directors and officers , in turn, on October 6, 2011, filed an action in local Puerto Rico court seeking judicial declaration that the FDIC’s claim is covered under the bank’s D&O policy. The complaint, which is in Spanish, can be found here. According to an October 14, 2011 press release from the direcrors and officers' counsel, the complaint seeks a judicial declaration with respect to “the controversial and critical question whether the FDIC-R can be deemed an insured under the Policy so as to excuse [the carrier] from providing coverage.”
Though these declaratory judgment actions have only just been filed, they are in many ways a vestige of an earlier time. As I discussed in a blog post way back in August 2008, when the current bank wave was only just starting to unfold, the question whether the Insured vs. Insured exclusion precluded coverage for claims by the FDIC as receiver against former directors and officers of failed banks was hotly contested during the S&L crisis. As I said in my earlier post, and as appears likely now, the Insured vs. Insured exclusion could be a critical part of the failed bank insurance coverage litigation during the current round of bank failures as well.
During the S&L crisis, where the FDIC had its greatest success in overcoming the Insured vs. Insured exclusion was where it was able to argue successfully that the Insured vs. Insured exclusion precluded coverage only with respect to collusive lawsuits. Because it was able to show that its claims and lawsuits were fully adversarial, it was able to establish that the exclusion did not apply.
The FDIC was not uniformly successful in arguing that the exclusion only precluded collusive claims, and there has in fact been some intervening case law to the effect that the Insured vs. Insured exclusion applies even when the underlying claim is not collusive.
It will in any event be interesting to see how these coverage cases develop. The one thing that seems certain is that as the FDIC failed bank litigation continues to accumulate, so too will the related coverage litigations. Many of the related coverage suits likely will also involve these same Insured vs. Insured issues.
Another issue that is likely to be litigated in coverage cases arising out of FDIC failed bank litigation is the enforceabilty of the so-called Regulatory Exclusion, which when present in the D&O policy precludes coverage for claims brought by the FDIC and other regulators. Not all policies implicated in the bank failures have these exclusions, but where they are present they are likely to be relied upon by the carriers to contest coverage. It is probably worth noting that these issues were fully litigated during the S&L crisis and the courts generally found that the regulatory exclusion precluded coverge for FDIC claims. My prior blog post about the regulatory exclusion can be found here.
A good summary of the D&O insurance coverage issues involved in FDIC failed bank litigation can be found here.
Special thanks to the several loyal readers who sent me links to ths source documents referenced above.