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.
Continue Reading Guest Post: Delaware Court Ruling Creates New Wrinkle for Defendants Evaluating Appraisal Claims

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.
Continue Reading D&O Policy’s Bankruptcy Exclusion is a Prohibited Ipso Facto Provision and Unenforceable

In the latest development in nearly decade-long legal battle, a New York intermediate appellate court has held in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2017 decision in Kokesh v. SEC that amounts Bear Stearns paid under an SEC disgorgement order represent a “penalty” for which coverage is precluded under the bank’s insurance policy. This ruling, which overturned a trial court order holding that the disgorgement amount was covered, represents a substantial reversal of fortune for the claimants in this long-running and high-profile insurance coverage dispute. While further proceedings in the case seem likely, the ruling nevertheless represents a setback for policyholders seeking to establish insurance coverage for disgorgement amounts. The intermediate appellate court’s September 20, 2018 opinion can be found here.
Continue Reading N.Y. Appellate Court: Coverage Precluded for Disgorgement “Penalty”

Among the most interesting and significant recent developments on the financial landscape has been the rise of cryptocurrencies and ICOs. As these digital assets have proliferated, they have created a host of regulatory and legal issues. These issues in turn have presented related insurance issues. In the following guest post, John McCarrick, Sedgwick Jeanite, and Michael Goldwasser of the White & Williams law firm take a look at the claims and insurance coverage issues that ICOs present. 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 to submit a guest post. Here is the authors’ article.
Continue Reading Guest Post: ICO-Related Claims and Insurance Coverage: Questions You Should be Asking

One of the key elements to establish coverage under a directors and officers insurance policy is the existence of claim is for actions undertaken by an insured individual in an insured capacity – that is, in his or her capacity as a director or officer of the company. Things in life are never simple, and lawsuits often allege that corporate director or officer defendants were acting in multiple capacities – that is, both in their capacity as a director or officer and in other capacities as well. These multiple capacity claims often present policy interpretation and coverage issues under D&O insurance policies.

In a recent case, the District Court of North Dakota (applying North Dakota law) held that coverage under a D&O insurance policy does not apply to a claim alleging that the insured defendant was acting in multiple capacities. The court also held that the Insured vs. Insured exclusion precluded coverage where the claimants included both insured persons and individuals that were not insured persons. The decision raises some interesting policy language and policy interpretation issues. A copy of May 18, 2018 decision by District of Massachusetts Judge William G. Young, sitting by designation in the District of Nevada, can be found here.
Continue Reading D&O Insurance: Coverage Precluded for Insured Director Acting in Multiple Capacities

A frequently recurring claim that many companies face is a lawsuit brought by a competitor after the company hires the competitor’s former employee. Depending on how the competitor’s lawsuit is framed, these kinds of claims can be an awkward fit with the defendant company’s D&O insurance policy. A recent insurance coverage dispute in Delaware state court illustrates the kinds of coverage issues that can sometimes arise in connection with these claims. As discussed below, there are ways that D&O insurance policies can be revised to try to address at least some of the coverage issues. Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis’s May 2, 2018 in the insurance coverage litigation can be found here.
Continue Reading D&O Insurance Coverage for Competitor Hire Claims

In a recent insurance coverage lawsuit arising out of an underlying dispute over who was responsible for the lapse of a key man life insurance policy, a court determined that coverage for the attorneys’ fees a management consulting firm incurred in defending against the underlying claim was precluded by the failure to maintain insurance exclusion in the consulting firm’s professional liability insurance policy. Because coverage disputes involving a failure to maintain insurance exclusion are relatively rare, the court’s decision provides an opportunity to consider the exclusion and how it might affect the availability of coverage in certain claims situations.
Continue Reading Failure to Maintain Insurance Exclusion Precludes Coverage for Defense Costs Incurred in a Lapsed Life Insurance Dispute

Over the last few days, I have published several posts looking back at 2017. In addition to looking back, this is also the time of year for looking forward as well. Among other things to watch out for this year is a series of D&O insurance coverage cases that are now pending in the appellate courts. In a January 9, 2018 article (here, subscription required), Law 360 author Jeff Sistrunk identifies three of these cases to watch this year. As discussed below, these cases not only are worth watching but could have important ramifications as well.
Continue Reading Key D&O Insurance Coverage Appeals to Watch This Year

Insurance policies are of course written documents, dependent upon standard conventions of grammar and usage in order to establish their meaning. A recent unpublished opinion from the Ninth Circuit wrestled with the grammar rules involved when an insurance application’s question and answer created a double negative. Even though a literal reading of the application question using the relevant grammar rules arguably establishes the applicant answered the question truthfully, a majority held that the overall context of the question established that the applicant did not answer the question truthfully, and therefore that the insurer was entitled to rescind the policy based on the application misrepresentation. The dissent disagreed, contending that in light of the application question’s actual wording, the applicant had completed the question truthfully, and therefore that the insurer was not entitled to rescission. The Ninth Circuit’s January 2, 2018 opinion in the case can be found here.
Continue Reading D&O Policy Rescission Upheld Despite Poorly Written Application Question and Arguably Correct Answer

A standard exclusion found in most private company directors and officers insurance policies precludes coverage for claims brought by one insured against another insured – the so-called Insured vs. Insured exclusion. The exclusion typically includes several coverage carve-backs preserving coverage for certain types of claims for which the exclusion would otherwise preclude coverage. One relatively standard coverage carve-back preserves coverage for claims brought by a former director or officer after the individual’s service to the company terminated. While the inclusion of this type of coverage carve-back is fairly standard, the wording of the carve-back can and sometimes does vary in ways that can significantly affect whether or not coverage is available for particular claims.

In a December 13, 2017 decision (here), Central District of California Dean D. Pregerson concluded that an underlying dispute between a former director and his former company did not fall within the coverage carve-back to the Insured vs. Insured exclusion in the company’s D&O insurance policy and therefore that there was no coverage under policy for the underlying claim. The decision highlights the importance of the specific language used in the coverage carve-back.
Continue Reading D&O Insurance: Coverage Carve-Backs in the Insured vs. Insured Exclusion