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Kevin M. LaCroix is an attorney and Executive Vice President, RT ProExec, a division of R-T Specialty, LLC. RT ProExec is an insurance intermediary focused exclusively on management liability issues.

The “economic structure” of SPACs creates an ‘inherent conflict” between the SPAC sponsor and the SPAC’s public shareholders, according to a new paper from two leading law professors.  The conflict arises from the SPAC sponsor’s financial interest in completing a merger even if the merger is not value-creating, which may conflict with the shareholders’ interest in redeeming their shares if they believe that the proposed merger is disadvantageous. Because of the potential conflict, it is critical that the SPAC’s board independently reviews the proposed merger and inform shareholders about the merger with appropriate candor. However, if the board members’ compensation aligns their interests with those of the sponsor, the sponsor’s conflict could extend to the directors themselves – a circumstance the paper’s authors call the “epitome of bad governance.”

The solution, the authors suggest, is for the SPAC to structure the board members’ compensation in a way that aligns the directors’ financial interests with those of the shareholders. Moreover, the authors contend, courts reviewing shareholders’ allegations that a SPAC’s board members breached their fiduciary duties should consider the potential for conflict inherent in the SPAC’s structure and accordingly review the underlying circumstances using the “entire fairness” standard. These considerations are relevant to cases now pending in the Delaware courts, which have the potential to be “groundbreaking.” Stanford Law Professor Michael Klausner and NYU Law Professor Michael Ohlrogge’s November 19, 2021 paper entitled “SPAC Governance: In Need of Judicial Review” can be found here.
Continue Reading SPACs’ Structural Conflicts, Shareholder Litigation, and Judicial Review

In a November 30, 2021 opinion (here), a Delaware Superior Court judge, applying Delaware law, held that the later investigations of the insured policyholder by two regulatory agencies were unrelated to an earlier investigation of the company by one of the agencies. In making this “relatedness” determination, the court declined to apply the “fundamentally identical” standard that some Delaware courts have applied to relatedness issues, but instead applied a “meaningful linkage” test. Because relatedness disputes are so frequent, and because Delaware’s court increasingly are becoming the forum in which insurance disputes are addressed, this court’s adoption of the revised relatedness standard court have important implications.
Continue Reading D&O Insurance: Delaware Court Applied “Meaningful Linkage” Interrelated Claims Test

In 1520, the nearly-50-year-old German artist Albrecht Dürer travelled to the Low Countries. The Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian I had just died, and his grandson Charles V was about to be crowed in Aachen as his successor. Dürer, both fleeing plague in his hometown of Nuremberg and seeking to confirm with the new emperor the continuation of his pension, roamed widely for more than a year throughout what is now the Netherlands and Belgium. Dürer meticulously recorded his experience and observations in a journal that miraculously (and fortunately for us) has survived. As memorialized in the journal, the curiosity that guided Dürer’s path was frequently rewarded; among other things, he was among the first to see the incredible first shipment of Aztec treasures that Hernán Cortés shipped back to Europe from his first voyage to Mexico as they were unloaded in Antwerp.

There was one occasion on his journey when Dürer’s curiosity was not immediately rewarded. When Dürer heard that high tides and a strong wind had stranded a whale on the shore of Zeeland, Dürer set out by ship with friends to see it. He endured near shipwreck along the way, and upon arrival learned that the same storm that had beached the whale had washed it back out to sea.

This anecdote about the whale Dürer sought but never saw is the subject of an interesting and imaginative  — but also challenging — new book by Philip Hoare, Albert and the Whale: Albrecht Dürer and How Art Imagines Our World (here). The book is essentially an extended meditation on what might have happened if Dürer had succeeded in seeing the whale. Using a discursive method that matches close study of Dürer’s fabulous artistic legacy with a sort of free association that roams extravagantly over the last five centuries of art, literature and history, Hoare – with the absconded whale never far from the center of his thoughts — deeply considers the relationship between art and nature, and how art illuminates the world in which we live.
Continue Reading Sunday Arts: Albert and the Whale

Sarah Abrams

In the following guest post, Sarah Abrams, Head of PL Claims at Bowhead Specialty Underwriters, takes a look at the D&O insurance underwriting and claims implications of private equity investment in managed care organizations. I would like to thank Sarah for allowing me to publish her 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 Sarah’s article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: PE Investment in Healthcare and Impact to Managed Care Organization D&O

Companies in the pharmaceutical industry are frequent targets of securities class action lawsuits. In the following guest post, Tony Kriesel, Claims Specialist with IQUW; Elan Kandel, a Member of the Bailey Cavalieri law firm; and James Talbert, an Associate at Bailey Cavalieri, take a look at the reasons for the pharmaceutical industry’s high securities litigation frequency experience and at the implications of the lawsuit frequency for pharmaceutical companies and their insurers. They also consider the significance of the interrelated claims provision typically found in D&O insurance policies for securities claims involving pharmaceutical companies. I would like to thank the authors for allowing me to publish their 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 the authors’ article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: D&O Risks and Challenges for Pharmaceutical Companies and their Insurers

The filing of data breach and other cybersecurity incident-related shareholder derivative lawsuits against corporate boards is nothing new; plaintiffs’ lawyers have been filing these kinds of claims now for several years. However, in recent months, the plaintiffs’ lawyers have shown an increasing inclination to file these claims based on allegations of breach of the duty of oversight. The latest example of this type of claim is the shareholder derivative suit filed this week against the board of T-Mobile USA. Although the plaintiff’s complaint does not expressly use the words “breach of the duty of oversight” or refer to “Caremark duties,” the complaint does refer to the board’s alleged “failure to monitor” and to the board’s alleged failure “to heed red flags” – the very kind of allegations that are at the heart of breach of the duty of oversight claims. A copy of the plaintiff’s complaint in the November 29, 2021 lawsuit can be found here.
Continue Reading Data Breach-Related Derivative Suit Filed Against T-Mobile USA Board

Several years ago, when it became clear that plaintiffs’ lawyers were going to file merger objection lawsuits in connection with essentially every M&A transaction, the D&O insurers responded by adding a separate, larger retention for M&A-related claims. The larger M&A-related claim retention quickly became pretty much a standard feature of public company D&O insurance policies. However, because the M&A claim retention is in many instances substantially larger than the retention that would otherwise apply, the question of whether the larger retention applies to a particular claim can be a significant one. In a recent case, the Delaware Superior Court addressed a D&O insurance coverage dispute in which, among other things, the insurers and the policyholder disagreed on whether the larger M&A-related claim retention applied to the underlying litigation. In an interesting November 23, 2021 opinion (here), Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis held that the larger M&A retention did not apply.
Continue Reading Court Holds Larger M&A-Related Retention Does Not Apply to Securities Claim

In the latest development in the long-running saga involving the efforts by J.P. Morgan to obtain D&O insurance coverage for the $140 million “disgorgement” that its predecessor-in-interest, Bear Stearns, paid to settle SEC market-timing allegations, the New York Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court) has reversed the intermediate appellate court’s ruling that the payment represented a “penalty” for which coverage is precluded. The Court of Appeals rejected the intermediate appellate court’s conclusion, made in reliance on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2017 Kokesh decision, that a “disgorgement” payment to the SEC is a “penalty.” The Court of Appeals held that Kokesh did not control, and that because the payment was compensatory in nature, it did not represent a “penalty” for which coverage is precluded under the policies. The Court’s November 24, 2021 opinion can be found here.
Continue Reading New York’s Highest Court Holds SEC “Disgorgement” Payment Not a “Penalty”

Peter Selvin

In an October 19, 2021 decision in Twin City Fire Insurance Co. v. Vonachen Services, Inc., the Northern District of Illinois, applying Illinois law, addressed key insurance coverage issues under the D&O and EPL coverage parts of a management liability insurance policy. In the following guest post, Peter Selvin reviews and analyzes the decision. Selvin is a partner with Los Angeles-based Ervin Cohen & Jessup. A version of this article previously was published in the LA Daily Journal. I would like to thank Peter for allowing me to publish his article on my 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 Peter’s article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: Court Addresses Biometric Claims and Insurance Issues