After hitting the shores of Louisiana with winds of up to 172mph in late August, Hurricane Ida’s remnants barreled up to the northeastern United States, leaving waves of destruction in its wake. The deluge of rain—more than half-a-foot fell in just a few hours—turned streets and subway platforms into rivers. The catastrophic flooding caused by the record-breaking rainfall killed several dozen people, left thousands without power, and damaged countless homes and businesses. All told, Ida is said to have caused more than $50 billion in damage. And scientists predict that, because of climate change, heavy rainfall-producing storms like Ida will only become more and more frequent.
A feature of most corporate liability insurance programs is the tower system of coverage: a primary policy with several overlying excess policies stacked atop one another collectively providing coverage up to a desired (or available) limit of liability. Depending on the size and liability exposures of a policyholder, a tower can consist of dozens of policies providing limits totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. Adding to this complexity, excess policies often share layers of coverage in quota share arrangements, sometimes subscribing to the same policy but more often issuing separate policies for a stated percentage of the quota share whole. To avoid as much as possible an impenetrable web of conflicting coverage terms, excess policies often “follow form” to the underlying coverage (usually to the primary policy) providing the insurer certainty and providing the policyholder a consistent tower of coverage. It is not always possible, though, to obtain clarity and certainty in tower placements. Insurance companies issuing excess coverage may not wish to agree to all the terms included in the underlying policies, and so may offer additional or differing terms, creating inconsistencies in an otherwise monolithic tower. For example, a primary insurer may refuse to cover punitive damages whereas an excess insurer may agree to do so, or vice versa.
In the finance world, Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) are proliferating like Dutch tulips. This year alone, they’ve exploded in popularity, with multitudes of celebrities, politicians, and influencers sponsoring SPACs of their own. The list includes the likes of Colin Kaepernick, Shaquille O’Neal, Alex Rodriguez and Tony Hawk. Even amidst new concerns from the SEC, which reportedly opened an inquiry into the investment risks of SPACs and issued a bulletin warning prospective investors to exercise caution investing in celebrity-sponsored SPACs, SPACs have raised staggering amounts of capital.
If 2020 was the year of the pandemic, 2021 appears to be shaping up to be the year of “returning to normal.” So far, most coverage disputes related to COVID-19 have been reactions to direct losses caused by the virus and related measures (i.e., relating to business interruption or event cancellation). In the upcoming months and years, however, many businesses will have to make proactive decisions on how to return to work. It is important for businesses to understand how those decisions may impact a variety of potential insurance coverages, including possible D&O coverage, as this post will discuss. Additionally, now that insurance companies have a better understanding of the types of risks involved with COVID-19, coverage terms and exclusions in policies issued after the pandemic may become drastically different.
Insurance policies are legal documents. In the event of a dispute, their scope and meaning will be submitted to a court or arbitrator for interpretation. Most brokers are not attorneys. Most risk managers are not attorneys. And few companies seek counsel to review policies before a claim arises. But underwriters, assisted by their counsel, increasingly are including litigation-focused provisions in their policies. Although these provisions often appear innocuous to readers unfamiliar with insurance litigation issues, they are like time bombs designed to explode in the event of a contested, litigated claim.
The digitization of business is in high gear. Although some sectors have embraced this change, others, including the insurance industry, have been slower to implement advances. While we’ve previously addressed insurance coverage for artificial intelligence (AI) risks, the risk-averse culture of the insurance industry has been particularly resistant to change in its own business.
When you’re buying a new car, you rely on a good salesperson to impress you with all of its features and gadgets. But when it’s time for maintenance, or when something goes wrong, you don’t go back to that salesperson to look at the problem. You find a trustworthy mechanic. At insurance renewal time, it may seem like you’re just buying a new set of policies, and that your broker is the only person you need to find out what’s available on the market. But policy renewal is also part of scheduled maintenance for your company’s risk management program. A policyholder-side insurance coverage attorney is the mechanic that can help you make sure it runs right.
As summer comes to a close, road repair crews across the country are identifying the street repairs and potholes that must be filled before the cold weather approaches. Now is also a good time for policyholders to identify some of the “potholes” that may accompany their claims-made insurance policies and get them filled before it is too late.
The news has been rife of late with announcements of intended mergers, including Amazon and Whole Foods, Sprint and Comcast, and the National Enquirer and Time Inc., to name a few. Although such deals are nothing new, the use of representations and warranties insurance (R&W insurance) is increasingly becoming a key component in the decision-making process for buyers and sellers alike. R&W insurance provides coverage for breach of representations or warranties contained in deal documents in addition to, or as a replacement for, indemnity provisions. R&W policies allow buyers and sellers to shift enough of the risk to third-party insurers to provide the certainty necessary to close the deal.
In a typical transaction, the seller agrees to indemnify the buyer for losses resulting from breaches of reps and warranties, usually subject to a cap. The seller will often commit to placing an agreed upon amount in escrow to secure its indemnification obligation. However, tying up funds in escrow can sometimes present a significant obstacle to closing the deal.