In many prior posts (refer here), I have suggested that FCPA-related losses could represent a growing D&O exposure. In a recent demonstration of just how significant these kinds of exposures can be, Siemens disclosed earlier this week that it has reached a 100 million euro settlement with its D&O insurers in connection with the claims arising from the company’s bribery scandal. The filing, which incorporates the insurance settlement documentation, raises a number of interesting issues.
In its December 8, 2009 filing of Form 6-K (here), Siemens reports that on December 2, 2009, the company reached a settlement agreement with its D&O liability insurers, while simultaneously announcing that it had also reached settlements with a number of its former directors and officers against whom it has asserted damages claims arising out of the bribery scandal. The settlements include the agreement of the company’s former CEO Heinrich von Pierer to pay 5 million euros, and of his successor, Klaus Kleinfeld, to pay 2 million euros. Other former board members agreed to pay amounts ranging from 1 million euros to 3 million euros.
The filing explains that Siemens had a total of 250 million euros of D&O insurance coverage, arranged in five layers of 50 million euros each. Each layer had a lead insurer as well as participating coinsurers. The settlement agreement, which can be found in Annex 10 to the filing, identifies the lead insurers and the participating coinsurers for each layer.
The insurance settlement requires a payment to Siemens of up to 100 million euros, consisting of two parts: a payment of 90 million euros (against which prior defense payments of 5.5 million euros are to be credited) and as well as the payment of an additional fund of 10 million euros. The 10 million euro fund is to be maintained for the defense of future claims as well as for the satisfaction of "justified claims." that are asserted against former Board Members based on the bribery allegations or that have no connection with bribery allegation but for which coverage would have otherwise have been available under the D&O insurance program.
All of the layers in the Siemens D&O insurance program participated in the settlement, with each successive layer contributing a proportionately smaller percentage of the layer’s 50 million euro limit.. (The percentage participations applicable to each layer are specified in the settlement agreement.) The 10 million euro fund is to be managed by the lead insurer on the primary layer on behalf of all the insurers.
The settlement agreement recites that the insurance settlement was the result of "intensive discussion" and that the Insurers had previously indicated that coverage might be denied on the grounds of, among other things, "pre-contractual knowledge and/or fraudulent/intentional violations of duties, and/or certain rights by unilateral declaration [that] can be exercised, which would lead to retroactive rescission of the D&O insurance." The parties reached the settlement in order to avoid the need to litigate these issues as well as to avoid the need for Siemens to pursue an action against … former Board Members who settled with Siemens in order to establish their liability as a precondition for the obligation to provide coverage."
Siemens’ SEC filing also reflects the settlement agreements reached separately with various former company officials. The filing recites that in connection with the individual settlements the individuals have agreed "not to draw on the D&O insurance coverage" in connection with their agreed payments to the company.
The agreement is subject to shareholder approval, which will be determined at the company’s January 26, 2010 shareholder meeting. (The shareholders will also vote on the individual settlements as well). The agreement clarifies that upon the effectiveness of the settlement, the insurance policies will be "retroactively terminated."
If it is "determined by a non-appealable court decision that individual Former Board Members intentionally or knowingly … violated their duties," then the Insurers shall be entitled to ask for reimbursement of defense costs paid to the respective former Board Member. The lead primary insurer is designated to administer this portion of the agreement.
There are a host of interesting things about this settlement.
The first is the marginal note accompanying the settlement stating that Michael Diekmann, a member of Siemens’ Supervisory Board, is the chairman of the Management Board of the parent holding company of the lead insurer on Siemens’ primary D&O insurance policy. The filing states that "Mr. Diekmann did not participate in the consultations and decisions pertaining to the Coverage Settlement." Call me cynical, but even if he didn’t participate in the consultations, this connection didn’t exactly impede the settlement either, if you take my meaning. To me this fact seems like it might help explain how there was any settlement at all, rather than the mother of all European D&O coverage lawsuits.
The second interesting thing is the way the D&O insurance policies are responding. The insurers are making a claims payment directly to the company, for claims that have been asserted by the company against its former officers. Unless the company’s European-issued insurance policies lack the kind of Insured vs. Insured exclusion that is standard in D&O policies issued in the U.S., there is something very peculiar about this payment. Even if the company itself is not an insured under the policy, it would seem like there would be an exclusion to protect against the possibility of collusive claims. Of course, there might have been such as exclusion in Siemens program and it was simply compromised as part of the settlement. (Readers who can help rationalize this apparent Insured vs. Insured problem are cordially invited to clarify, using this blog’s comment function.)
UPDATE: A knowledgeable European reader who prefers anonymity sent me a note with the following observation:"Regarding the payment towards the company we usually don´t carry IvI-exclusions over here in Germany. Most of the claims are made by the companies against individual directors and officers, word is that it´s around 80% or more of the times. We are basically still in the fledging stages of D&O litigation over here, D&O coverage was allowed in 1986, distribution really didn´t took off until the end of the 90s. The mentality over here regarding the pursue of claims against your directors and officers is totally different than in the US. Until the middle of the 90s, courts hadn´t even ruled on supervisory boards being forced to pursue claims against directors and officers."
The other thing about the insurers’ 90 million euro payment (less defense expenses previously paid) is the question of what exactly it represents. Simultaneously with the insurance settlement, Siemens settled its claims against most of the former company officials. So those claims have been resolved by individual payments for which the individuals are prohibited from seeking insurance. There are remaining claims against other individuals, but that is what the 10 million euro fund is for. So what exactly is the 90 million euro (less prior defense expense) payment for? Of course, the company has incurred literally billions of costs, expenses, fines and penalties in connection with the bribery scandal, but I don’t think the insurers are paying for the company’s own scandal related expenses.
The settlement agreement recites that, among other things, the insurance settlement relieved the company of the need to file and pursue actual lawsuits against former board members. I guess the internal logic of the settlement agreement is that the company could have pursued the lawsuits, and if they did, each would have to be litigated and separately settled, and the insurer would have to pay (assuming the claims were covered). The insurance settlement in effect says that we are just going to cut out all the intervening steps and compromise everything for a single payment.
The third feature is the way the settlement incorporates a settlement fund for future losses. It is on the one hand an escrow fund, but on the other hand it is more like insurance, or perhaps the residue of insurance with certain insurance-like attributes (e.g., it only applies to "justified" claims) The insurers are in effect providing a limited amount of insurance, but in a bargained down amount, with many fewer conditions.
Fourth, to the extent the insurance policies provided any type of insurance coverage for securities claims, the compromise and termination apparently precludes the availability of insurance in connection with the securities class action lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of New York last week, in which the plaintiffs alleged violations of U.S. securities laws solely against Siemens. (The $10 million fund would not be available in connection with this claim, because the claim was filed solely against the company, but the fund was set up only for claims asserted against former board members.)
Finally, I wonder what this settlement and the company’s settlements with the individual former company officials do to the derivative lawsuit that was filed in New York earlier in connection with the bribery scandal (refer here, see page 18). It is entirely possible that that case fell by the wayside earlier on, or that it was preempted by the claims the company itself asserted against the individuals. But it is an interesting question what impact these developments would have on the New York derivative lawsuit if it were still an active case. (Readers who may have any insight into the status of the derivative lawsuit are encouraged to provide updated information via the comment feature of this blog.)
Whatever else may be said about the settlement, it clearly represents a massive hit to the European D&O insurers. Hits on this scale may have become almost commonplace in the U.S., but this type of loss is still represents an extraordinary D&O insurance development in Europe. I wonder if this settlement is a game changer for the European D&O insurance community. UPDATE: Readers have advised me that massive D&O settlements on this scale are unfortunately becoming all too common in Europe as well; one example cited is the recent 57.5 million euro settlment involving EM.TV.
Finally, it is worth noting that the massive amount of the insurance settlement underscores the extent of the exposure that bribery-related claims represent. Though the Siemens case is extraordinary on many levels, the kind of insurance losses on claims related to bribery-related allegations are becoming increasingly common. As the Siemens insurance settlement demonstrates, the exposures are clearly not limited just to the United States.