Director and Officer Liability

Brent Ashley

In a recent post (here), I reviewed the steps that well-advised companies can take in light of the current coronavirus outbreak to try to mitigate their risk of management liability claims arising out of the pandemic. In the following guest post, Brent Ashley of the Hirschler law firm takes a look at the steps corporate boards can take in light of the COVID-19 pandemic to try to insulate themselves against claims based on alleged breaches of the duty of oversight. I would like to thank Brent for allowing 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 Brent’s article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: 7 Steps for Ensuring Director Oversight During COVID-19

Although Delaware’s courts recognized a cause of action for directors’ breach of the duty of oversight in the 1996 Caremark decision, claims against directors based on alleged oversight duty breaches have long been seen as difficult to plead and prove. However, in two 2019 rulings – the Marchand v. Barnhill decision (discussed here) and the Clovis Oncology decision (discussed here) – Delaware courts allowed breach of the duty of oversight claims to proceed. Now in a more recent ruling, the Delaware Court of Chancery has allowed yet another duty of oversight claim to proceed.

As noted in a May 1, 2020 post on the Duane Morris Delaware Business Law Blog (here), the most recent Delaware duty of oversight ruling reinforces the view that “directors and officers who neglect their oversight responsibilities may be personally liable for resulting harm to the company and its stockholders.” The Delaware Court of Chancery’s April 27, 2020 decision in Hughes v. Hu can be found here.
Continue Reading Another Delaware Breach of the Duty of Oversight Case Survives Dismissal Motion

In the early stages of the coronavirus-related close-down, most colleges and universities terminated live classes, switched to online lessons, and sent their students home. In some cases, affected students have filed lawsuits against their schools, seeking to recover tuition and fees paid for classes, housing, and food. The following posts discuss the extent of the exposure that these kinds of claims represent for these institutions’ boards of directors or boards of trustees.
Continue Reading Coronavirus-Related Suits Hit Higher Ed Institutions

Many readers may have seen the news this past week that the estate of a deceased Walmart employee who had died of complications from COVID-19 has filed a Wrongful Death lawsuit against the company. According to the lawyer who filed the complaint, the lawsuit is the “first known COVID-19 wrongful death lawsuit.” Even though a Wrongful Death lawsuit is far outside this blog’s usual remit, I tracked the complaint down and read it carefully, in order to think more about possible future coronavirus blame casting that could arise in the D&O claims arena. While the wrongful death lawsuit may be the first of its type, it surely will not be the last, and its filing may foreshadow other possible claims.
Continue Reading Thinking About Coronavirus Blame and the Possible Course of D&O Claims

Francis Kean

One of the questions for companies facing financial difficulties both in the U.S. and in the UK is the extent to which the boards of the companies owe duties to creditors to try to avoid creditors’ losses as the companies approach insolvency. I discussed the state of the law in Delaware regarding these issues in a recent post. In the following guest post, Francis Kean, a partner in the financial lines team at McGill and Partners, takes a look at the recent suspension in the UK of “wrongful trading’ legislation   A version of Francis’s article previously was published on LinkedIn. I would like to thank Francis for allowing me to publish his article as a guest post on my site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly of you would like to submit a guest post. Here is Francis’s article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: UK’s Wrongful Trading Laws Suspended: Good News for Company Directors?  

The current disruption to normal business operations across the country means that many businesses will soon be under significant financial pressure, if they are not there already. As their companies edge toward insolvency, directors are going to have to make significant decisions about the companies and their operations. Boards may be concerned, as they make critical and difficult decisions, that creditors or others may later attempt to claim that they violated their legal duties.  This concern in turn leads to the question about exactly what duties directors face as their companies approach insolvency.
Continue Reading Cash-Crunched Companies Face Insolvency; Will Directors Face Claims?

The coronavirus pandemic poses a host of threats and challenges for every organization. The outbreak also presents a number of serious challenges for boards of directors as well. In the following guest post, Paul Ferrillo, a partner in the McDermott, Will & Emery law firm, considers the challenges that boards are facing and the litigation threats that may arise as a result. I would like to thank Paul for allowing 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 Paul’s article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: Directors Beware: More Perils from COVID-19

Francis Kean

In a post published last month, I wrote about an interesting U.K. case in which a claim had been asserted post-bankruptcy against a director of a private company. In the following guest post, Francis Kean, a partner in the financial lines team at McGill and Partners, takes another look at the case and considers its implications. A version of Francis’s article previously was published on LinkedIn. I would like to thank Francis for allowing me to publish his article as a guest post on my site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly of you would like to submit a guest post. Here is Francis’s article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: Do D&O Policies Need to be Amended to Cover Post Insolvency Claims?

Over the last few days, as updates about the spread of the coronavirus have dominated the news cycle and roiled financial markets, I have had a number of conversations about whether the emerging coronavirus outbreak could result in D&O claims. There is no doubt that if a building fire, a plane crash, or an oil spill can result in D&O claims, the impacts on any given company arising from a global pandemic might at least as a theoretical matter also result in a D&O claim. As discussed below, there are a number of ways in which circumstances surrounding the evolving coronavirus health crisis might result in D&O claims.
Continue Reading The Risk of Coronavirus-Related D&O Claims?

In prior posts on this site (for example, here), I have noted the phenomenon of directors’ and officers’ liability claims arising in the wake of antitrust enforcement actions. These follow-on civil actions arguably represent one part of an increasing trend toward trying to hold individual directors and officers accountable for their companies’ antitrust violations. According to a recent paper, as a result of trends in relevant doctrines and enforcement policies, the risk to directors and officers from these developments is “likely to continue rising in the foreseeable future.” In his February 12, 2020 paper entitled “D&O Liability for Antitrust Violations” (here), University of Arizona Law Professor Barak Orbach details the developments contributing to these trends and reviews the implications for director and officer liability. Professor Orbach’s paper raises a number of interesting considerations, particularly from an insurance perspective, as discussed below.
Continue Reading Directors’ and Officers’ Antitrust Liability Risks and D&O Insurance Concerns