D&O insurance policies sometimes contain Major Shareholder Exclusions, precluding coverage for claims brought by shareholders’ with ownership percentages above a certain specified ownership threshold. But when is the shareholder’s ownership percentage to be determined – at the time of policy inception or at the time of the claim? This issue was among the D&O insurance coverage question presented in a recent case before the Third Circuit. The appellate court, applying Delaware law, found that the exclusionary language involved was ambiguous, and therefore resolved the issue in the policyholder’s assignee’s favor. As discussed below, the appellate court’s ruling is interesting in a number of different respects.

The Third Circuit’s opinion in the case can be found here. The Wiley Rein law firm’s October 19, 2019 post about the decision on its Executive Summary Blog can be found here.
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D&O insurance policyholders sometimes bridle when the insurers take steps to try to rein in burgeoning defense expense. In that situation, the D&O insurers will often try to remind the policyholder that because defense expense erodes the limit of liability, it is in everyone’s interest for defense expense to be monitored closely. An unusual coverage action in the Western District of New York reversed the usual concerns about insurer defense cost control. The policyholder sued its D&O insurer for breach of contract, bad faith, and intentional infliction of emotional distress not for failing to pay defense costs or full defense costs, but rather for allowing the policyholder’s defense expenses incurred in an underlying criminal action to exhaust the applicable limit of liability. While it is hardly a surprise that a court concluded that an insurer that paid out its full limits cannot be held liable for breach of contract – much less bad faith or infliction of emotional distress –there are still a number of interesting aspects to this dispute and to the court’s ruling.  
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D&O insurance typically defines the term “Claim” to include criminal charges after indictment. However, the coverage available under the policy for criminal proceedings is excluded in the event of a final adjudication determining that precluded misconduct actually took place. But what happens to the coverage if there is no final adjudication but rather the criminal charges are resolved through a negotiation that results in a monetary payment by the criminal defendants? In a recent decision, the Eleventh Circuit determined that the applicable D&O insurance policy’s coverage did not extend to amounts paid in negotiated resolution of criminal charges, despite the absence of a final adjudication – not by operation of the exclusion, but because of the nature of the payments. 
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Dan Wolf

As I discussed in a recent post, in July 2019, a Delaware Superior Court judge held that an appraisal action is a Securities Claim within the meaning of the applicable D&O insurance policy. While this part of the court’s ruling was noteworthy, there was another part of the court’s ruling that was also important. In addition to the Securities Claim issue, the court also determined that policy provided coverage for pre-judgment interest on the fair value payment in the appraisal action, even though the policy did not provide coverage for the payment itself.

In the following guest post, Dan Wolf, an associate at the Gilbert law firm, takes a look at the pre-judgment interest aspect of the recent Delaware opinion. Among other things, Dan suggests that this aspect of the court’s decision changes defendants’ analysis of whether or not to prepay appraisal claimants. A version of this article first appeared on his firm’s blog, here. I would like to thank Dan for his willingness to allow me to publish his article as a guest post on this site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is Dan’s article.
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One way or the other, I have been doing D&O for more than 35 years. One of the reasons I love what I do is that there is always something new and so I am always learning. This week’s new thing is a recent ruling by a federal district court ruling that a debtor’s insurer could not rely on a bankruptcy exclusion in the debtor’s D&O policy to deny coverage for an underlying claim because the exclusion violates the bankruptcy code’s probation against ipso facto provisions in executory contracts. In all my years, I don’t believe I have ever run across the bankruptcy code’s ipso facto provision prohibition, so the district court’s ruling in this case was a learning opportunity for me – and I suspect it will be for most readers as well.
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In July, the Seventh Circuit issued a unanimous opinion in the case of Emmis Communications Corp. v. Illinois National Insurance Company, in which the court ruled that the policyholder’s provision of notice to the previous carrier precluded coverage for an underlying claim under the later of two D&O insurance policies. The court’s ruling was widely criticized (including also on this site). The policyholder, Emmis, filed a motion for panel rehearing or rehearing en banc. And then on August 21, 2019, the appeals court panel did something very unusual — the court withdrew its July opinion, in which it had reversed the district court, and substituted an order affirming the district court’s ruling. As discussed below, this odd and inexplicable sequence of events raises some serious questions. The Seventh Circuit panel’s August 21, 2019 order can be found here.   
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In an interesting development in a long-running legal battle in which for-profit education company Apollo Education Group is seeking D&O insurance coverage for its $13.125 million settlement of an options backdating-related securities class action lawsuit, the Ninth Circuit has certified to the Arizona Supreme Court the question of the standard of law to be applied to the insurance policy’s consent to settlement provisions. The Arizona Court’s response to the certified question potentially could have important implications for the meaning and application of similar provisions in other D&O insurance policies. The Ninth Circuit’s August 15, 2019 opinion certifying the question to the Arizona court can be found here.
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Federal Reserve Building, Washington, D.C.

The Federal Reserve wants bank directors and senior executives  to know that while their D&O insurance policies are “an important risk mitigation tool,” their policies could contain exclusions that could “potentially limit coverage” and leave them without insurance in the event of a claim. In a July 23, 2019 letter (here), the Fed informed banks and other financial institutions of the risks associated with exclusionary provisions in D&O insurance policies and urged board members and senior executives to “understand fully the protections and limitations” that the D&O insurance policies provide. As discussed below, the Fed’s guidance is good advice for directors and senior executives of any organization, not just for banks. An August 3, 2019 post on the Willis Towers Watson blog about the Fed letter can be found here.
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As the number of shareholder appraisal lawsuits increased a few years ago, a recurring question has been whether or not a company’s D&O insurance covers the company’s costs incurred in defending an appraisal action. In a recent decision, a Delaware Superior Court judge rejected a number of the recurring coverage defenses on which insurers rely in disputing coverage for appraisal action costs and expenses. The Court’s opinion in the Solera Holdings case contains several very interesting rulings, some of which could be relevant even outside of the appraisal action context. A copy of the Delaware Superior Court’s July 31, 2019 opinion can be found here.
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In a recent decision, the Delaware Superior Court, applying Delaware law, held that two of Pfizer’s excess D&O insurers are on the hook for their portion of costs the company incurred in defending and settling a securities class action lawsuit, despite the excess insurers’ arguments that the claim was interrelated with an earlier securities suit and that coverage was therefore precluded under their policies’ Specific Litigation Exclusion. The critical determinant in the court’s ruling may have been its decision that Delaware law governed the coverage dispute, but there are still a number of interesting elements about issue of claims relatedness. The Delaware Superior Court’s July 23, 2019 decision can be found here.
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