I recently participated in a panel at the Association of Business Trial Lawyers Annual Meeting – “Bad News Delivered: The Board Meeting and Crisis Management.”  Among other topics, the panel discussed the role of insurance counsel in crisis management, and addressed the following questions:

Who Is The Client? 

When meeting with a board in a time of crisis, it is critical to identify whether your client is the company or the board.  And if it is the company, the board must understand that while they are the decision-makers for your client, they themselves are not your clients.

Depending on whom you represent, your advice and strategy may differ.  Although acting on behalf of the company and bound by fiduciary duties and the duty of loyalty, in a time of crisis board members may be concerned about how the company’s insurance can be used to protect their interests, as opposed to the company’s.  If counsel is representing the company, the strategy may focus on preserving the coverage to settle a nasty case, fund burdensome defense or investigation costs, or protect individuals who are critical to the company’s on-going business strategies.  And if the company is in bankruptcy, the debtor in possession or trustee may want to preserve the assets for claims against the estate, as opposed to lower priority indemnity claims or non-indemnifiable claims against individual insureds such as board members.

If counsel is representing an individual, he or she may have the luxury of an indemnification from the company – assuming the company is able to fulfill it.  If not, counsel may need to invoke Side A or other provisions in the policy to preserve the policy limits for the individual directors or officers, and access to much-needed defense costs.
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John OrrFarella’s Insurance Recovery Group lawyers regularly collaborate with and learn from different players and functions within the insurance industry. To provide more value to our readers, we have reached out to a series of insurance brokers to create the Insurance Broker Series Q&A.

Our latest installment is with John M. Orr, Managing Principal – West Region Financial Lines Practice Leader with Integro Insurance Brokers.
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image: Are you Covered?A number of companies have been sued by the FTC in recent years, alleging, for example, that the company made claims regarding the product or service without adequate substantiation. Many of these companies are small private companies with limited resources. These companies frequently have “Management Liability” or “Private D&O” coverage which may provide relief. Many insureds do not understand that these polices are different than public company D&O policies, because Management Liability policies provide broad coverage for the company itself, not just for the directors and officers. If a company is sued by the FTC, these policies may provide coverage whether individual defendants are named or not.
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Blog-Image---Are-You-CoveredIn what it described as a case of first impression, the Northern District of California ruled that a professional liability policy that excluded the insured’s “assumption of liability obligations in a contract or agreement” did not extend to breach of warranty or false advertising claims arising out of a genetic data testing company’s marketing and sale of a personal genome service. See Ironshore Specialty Ins. Co. v. 23andMe, Inc. (July 22, 2016) N.D. Cal. No. 14-cv-03286-BLF. What is noteworthy about this case is not so much the decision, but the fact that the insurer challenged coverage on this ground. While this issue apparently has never been decided in the context of a professional liability policy, both case law and custom and practice recognize that the same phrase used in a general liability policy applies only to liabilities “assumed,” i.e. created by, a contractual indemnity agreement.
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shutterstock_113739760-Protection Level HighDirectors’ and officers’ liability insurance is a key resource for funding defense and settlement of claims without depleting the insureds’ assets. Private company D&O insurance, in particular, can provide exceptionally broad coverage to the company, its individual directors, officers, and sometimes even employees against shareholder litigation and derivative actions, criminal and regulatory investigations, and other

When a venture capital or private equity firm invests in a portfolio company (PC) and places a general partner on the PC’s board, they typically require that the PC agree to defend and indemnify the board member in any litigation arising out of their board service, and to purchase directors’ and officers’ liability insurance. However, the D&O insurance requirements are typically quite vague, and some firms may be surprised to learn of key gaps in the PC’s coverage. These gaps are usually discovered when the VC/PE firm needs the coverage most – i.e., after a lawsuit has been filed, naming their board member as a defendant. Here are two examples I’ve come across in representing venture capital and private equity firms:
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Recently, I was asked to look at coverage for a case where the insurer had denied a duty to defend several years before. We concluded that the insurer should have been defending based on certain allegations in the complaint and asked it to reconsider. In the meantime, though, a successful partial summary judgment motion had dismissed the only covered claims. There is good law to suggest that the duty to defend should continue, but the client could have avoided an unnecessary fight had she retained coverage counsel at the outset.
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Policyholders seeking insurance funds to settle a case often face an insurer’s demand that some amount should be allocated to uncovered claims or parties. The issue arises often under directors and officers liability (D&O) policies, when settlements resolve the liability of covered directors and the uncovered company. But general and professional liability and errors and

Policyholders seeking insurance funds to settle a case often face an insurer’s demand that some amount should be allocated to uncovered claims or parties.  The issue arises often under directors and officers liability (D&O) policies, when settlements resolve the liability of covered directors and the uncovered company.  But general liability insurers also demand to “allocate” settlements, suggesting, for example, that half of the settlement is uncovered because the complaint alleges both negligent and intentional conduct.  Surprisingly, California courts have not clearly addressed the issue outside of the D&O context.  How should you respond? 

For D&O policies, courts first recognized the “larger settlement rule” in Harbor Ins. Co. v. Cont’l Bank Corp., 922 F.2d 357, 368 (7th Cir. 1990).  The question there was how to allocate a settlement between the potential liability of the covered directors and officers, and of the uncovered company.  The court held that the insurer is liable for the entire settlement, except for the amount, if any, by which the settlement was made larger because of claims against uninsured parties.  In other words, if the same dollars were paid to settle the potential liability of both, those dollars must be allocated to the covered claims against the directors and officers.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed the larger settlement rule in Nordstrom, Inc. v. Chubb & Sons, Inc., 54 F.3d 1424, 1433 (9th Cir. 1995) (Washington law); and Safeway Stores, Inc. v. Nat’l Union Fire Ins. Co., 64 F.3d 1282, 1287 88 (9th Cir. 1995) (California law).


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