The credit crisis recently entered a dark new phase, and this new darker phase has also already produced its own distinctive round of lawsuits. Like the ominous economic circumstances, the new litigation phase also seems darker and more threatening.
In the latest issue of InSights (here) -- entitled "Has the Credit Crisis Litigation Wave Reached an Inflection Point?" – I briefly review the subprime litigation wave as it developed over the past two years and then examine the dramatic events that occurred in the financial marketplace beginning in September 2008. The article then examines the recent wave of litigation surrounding these events and concludes with an assessment of what these developments may signify going forward.
No Avalanche After All?: Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s February 2008 decision in the LaRue case (about which I wrote here), in which the court recognized an individual’s right to pursue a breach of fiduciary duty claims for mismanagement of their 401(k) plan, there was significant speculation that the decision could unleash an avalanche of lawsuits. The avalanche may yet materialize. But in the meantime it is worth noting that despite his victory in the Supreme Court, LaRue himself has voluntarily dismissed his case in the district court, where the case was on remand after the Supreme Court’s decision.
As reflected in the October 21, 2008 Consent Order of Dismissal in the case (here),LaRue withdrew his complaint after he "decided that it is not financially feasible to continue to pursue his claim."
As Professor Paul Secunda noted on the Workplace Law Prof Blog (here), LaRue’s withdrawal of his case shows that "these types of claims are still extremely difficult for plaintiffs to prevail upon" and "all the doomsday prognostications to the contrary seem just a tad off."
Just In Case Those Bank Lawsuits Do Materialize: In a recent post (here), I speculated that we may be entering a new phase of litigation involving failed banks. Apparently I am not the only one who anticipates that we may be seeing more failed bank litigation. In an October 23, 2008 memorandum entitled "Failed Financial Institution Litigation: Remember When" (here), the Willkie Farr & Gallagher law firm observes that the recent dramatic financial institution failures "are likely to fan the flames for myriad government agencies to pursue litigation against all parties associated with the financial institutions."
The Willkie Farr memorandum takes a comprehensive look at the potential failed financial institution litigation that may emerge, referring to the litigation that unfolded during the S&L crisis as a guide. The memo examines likely litigants, including in particular the probable defendants. The memo also reviews the factual and legal issues that are likely to arise, including some issues that may be different in the current era than previously– for example, with respect to circumstances involving credit default swaps.
The memorandum also briefly reviews the D&O insurance issues that are likely to arise in connection with claims against the directors and officers of the failed financial institutions. Among other issues, the memorandum review issues in connection with the regulatory exclusion (about which I previously wrote here), and in connection with the insured vs. insured exclusion (which I wrote about here).
The Willkie Farr memorandum is thorough and comprehensive, and is a good resource to keep at hand in the event the "dead bank" litigation does in fact materialize.
An Insurance Professional Takes A Look Back: It may surprise those outside the industry, but the insurance business really is full of a wide assortment of interesting, amusing and entertaining people. Many of their stories are humorously retold by industry veteran Larry Goanos in his new book Claims Made and Reported: A Journey Through D&O, E&O and Other Lines of Insurance (here). Larry’s book examines the careers of some of the luminaries of professional lines insurance industry and provides valuable insights for business success.
While writing the book, Larry apparently interviewed over 400 people, some of whom started in the industry back in the 1940s and 1950s. Many of the stories Larry recounts have become legendary in the industry, such as the tale of the broker whose suit was seemingly in flames during a meeting while he continued to talk or the mid-level executive who bought a Rolls Royce as his company car --on his lunch hour. The book is written with in the same spirit of friendship and good humor that characterizes the best side of our industry, and will be enjoyable for anyone who is a part of or is interested in the industry.
Congrats to Larry on his book. He obviously had a lot of fun writing it, and a lot of people are going to have fun reading it. It is worth noting that Larry intends to split the proceeds from the book’s sales among four charities, including the PLUS Foundation and Grateful Nation Montana.
What the Hell is the Point of 36 Watches -- Or, For That Matter, Three Mirrored Disco Balls?: In an October 29, 2008 Wall Street Journal article (here) describing unexpected challenges facing lenders that foreclosed on properties, the article details issues arising in connection with Indianapolis developer Christopher T. White and his business, Premier Properties USA:
Indianapolis prosecutors charged Mr. White in June with theft and fraud for writing a $500,000 check to Premier for payroll purposes on a nearly empty account. Mr. White's defense attorney counters that the developer believed money was arriving to cover the check. A lender seized Mr. White's personal property and in August auctioned items including five Vespa scooters, 15 flat-panel televisions, 36 watches and three mirrored disco balls.
"Where the Hell is Matt?": If you have not yet seen this latest viral Internet video, you have to take four minutes and watch it right now. Absolutely guaranteed to make you smile. Matt really does seem to have visited (and danced in) all the places depicted, which kind of makes you wonder how long it took to make this video. While he was dancing, the rest of us were sitting at our desks doing much more productive things...