In an earlier post (here), I wrote about a December 30, 2009 ruling in the MBIA coverage litigation that special litigation committee investigation expenses were covered under a D&O liability insurance policy. As I anticipated, the decision has proven to be controversial.
Two law firms that traditionally act as coverage counsel for D&O carriers recently released memoranda discussing the opinion. The Wiley Rein issued a brief memo (here) discussing the case and its holding. The Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge law firm released a longer memorandum (here) also discussing the opinion.
The Edwards Angell memo, written by my friend John McCarrick and his colleagues, Maurice Pesso and Peter de Boisblanc, is particularly interesting because opens by reviewing the justification for the insurers’ standard position that special litigation committee expenses are not covered under the typical D&O insurance policy.
The Edwards Angell memo also includes a review of implications of and the likely consequences that flow from the decision. Among other things, the memo stresses that the decision did not hold that special litigation committee expenses will always be covered, but only under the facts presented. The memo also recites the difficulties and logical problems involved with characterizing the special litigation committee expenses as "defense costs" (including the likelihood that plaintiffs might use the characterization as a way of challenging the independence of the special litigation committee.).
The Edwards Angell memo concludes with this observation:
Unless and until the D&O insurers in MBIA press a successful appeal of this ruling to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, D&O insurers should brace themselves for the likelihood that the MBIA ruling will be cited by policyholder counsel and brokers in an effort to significantly expand the scope of coverage for these kinds of legal expenses and costs, as well as to cover other fees and expenses that an insured can argue were incurred "in connection with" a covered D&O claim.
The memo provides an interesting presentation of the carrier perspective on the decision. Reading the memo, I wondered whether any policyholder-side coverage attorneys had written their own analyses of the decision from the perspective of insured companies. I hope that any readers aware of these alternative perspectives will please send them along to me. I will update this post with any additional materials that are sent to me about the case.
One final note on a related subject — the Wilmer Hale law firm has an interesting memo about recent developments in shareholder derivative litigation (here), which, among other things, discusses court’s’ increased scrutiny of special litigation committees, particularly with respect to the question whether or not the committees are in fact independent.
NAB Update: The closely watched National Bank of Australia case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court on a writ of certiorari from the Second Circuit has now been scheduled for oral argument. According to a post on The 10b5-Daily (here), oral argument in the case, which will address the question of the extraterritorial jurisdiction of U.S. courts over foreign domiciled companies under the U.S. securities laws, is now set for March 29, 2010.
The 10b-5 Daily post also has a link to the Petitioners’ Brief., which argues that under the federal securities laws there are no extraterritorial limitations on the U.S. courts’ jurisdiction. Finally, the blog post also links to a National Law Journal article (here) written by Columbia Law School Professor John Coffee suggesting that, in light of various pending legislative proposals, Congress and the Supreme Court are on a "collision course" on the question of extraterritorial jurisdiction of the U.S. securities laws. Coffee concludes by suggesting that "a legal train wreck might result from opposing approaches to global class actions."
Detailed background regarding the NAB case can be found here.
Another Belated Securities Lawsuit Filing: In prior posts (for example, here), I have noted the phenomenon that developed in the second-half of 2009 where plaintiffs’ lawyers were filing securities class action lawsuit complaints well after the proposed class period cutoff date. In a more recent post (here), I noted that at least one lawsuit first filed in January suggested that this trend has continued in the New Year.
Yet another case filed this week suggests that this trend is continuing. In a January 21, 2010 press release (here), plaintiffs’ lawyers announced that they had filed a securities class action lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois against Motorola and certain of its directors and officers. The lawsuit relates to alleged misrepresentations about the company’s sales of its RAZR2 telephone handset. The complaint in the case can be found here.
Though the complaint was only just filed, the proposed class period cutoff date is January 22, 2008, a full one year and 364 days prior to the filing date, and just before the expiration of the two-year statute of limitations applicable to ’34 Act claims.
In his comments in connection with the recent release of Cornerstone’s year-end analysis of the securities class action lawsuits, Stanford Law School Professor Joseph Grundfest had a number of choice comments about these belated securities class action lawsuit filings, essentially suggesting that the plaintiffs are scraping the bottom of the barrel (my words, not his) to file these belated lawsuits because they had run out of more meritorious cases to file. Public statements by leading plaintiffs’ attorneys (refer, for example, here) suggest more neutrally that they are just getting around to filing cases that were "backburnered" while the lawyers were concentrating on getting the subprime and credit crisis cases on file.
But whatever the explanation may be for the belated case filings, it is a very distinct phenomenon that has appears to be continuing as move well into 2010.
New SEC Climate Change Disclosure Guidance Ahead?: In prior posts (here), I discussed the possibility that the SEC could issue guidelines for public companies’ disclosures about climate change related issues and exposures. As discussed on the FEI Financial Reporting Blog (here), the SEC has announced (here) that in a meeting on January 27, 2010, it will be considering "a recommendation to publish an interpretive release to provide guidance to public companies regarding the Commission’s current disclosure requirements concerning matters relating to climate change."
As the FEI Financial Reporting Blog explains, an interpretive release of this type is designed to provide final guidance on existing disclosure requirements. The blog post speculates that the guidance could be effective immediately upon release.
Cheers: I have joined the Facebook group "A Glass of Wine Solves Everything." (here). In vino veritas, dude. I recently have developed an affinity for two very different kinds of red, Oregon Pinot Noir and Argentine Malbec — in part because one of the problems I have to solve is that I can’t afford the Burgundys, Bordeauxs and Super Tuscans I would prefer. In my next life, my blog will be about wine.