On Directors and Officers Insurance

Earlier in the week, I promised to pass along over the course of the week some interesting articles on insurance coverage issues that I had been reading, and here we are, the end of the week already, and I haven’t done so, having been waylaid along the way by breaking news like the Ninth Circuit’s stay of the ruling that San Francisco’s health insurance ordinance was preempted. So in this post, I will pass along two more of the articles, both having to do with directors and officers insurance, a topic that I have mentioned in the past often raises problems for practitioners and clients, particularly in terms of understanding the scope of the coverage it grants and the nature of its exclusions. The first is this outstanding article here, laying out a road map for in-house counsel at publicly traded corporations over how to protect themselves from the various liability traps that have appeared for such corporate lawyers by navigating them through the ins and outs of the insurance coverage that may be available to them in that role. The article explains that many corporate counsel faced with problems from backdating inquiries and similar exposures will not in fact be protected by the directors and officers insurance purchased by their employers, and instead need to have their companies purchase a stand alone policy directed at covering the unique risks faced by in-house counsel to protect them against all of the investigations and lawsuits written up on the front pages of the business pages.

The second is this terrific interview here, in the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, that really breaks down the structure of directors and officers insurance and the variables at play in obtaining it. One of the things I liked best about the article is that it reinforces the same point I often make when discussing directors and officers coverage and protection for people serving in that role, as I did here in this post, which is that directors and officers need to protect themselves by creating two separate lines of protection: first, they need to be guaranteed indemnification under the company’s by-laws against claims filed against them in their role as directors and officers, and then second they need to be protected as well by directors and officers insurance purchased by the company. In that way, the indemnification agreement can protect them against claims that might fall into exclusions or other gaps in the directors and officers coverage, thus keeping them free from personal exposure, and the insurance can protect them should the company go belly up or otherwise fall down on its obligation to indemnify them.

And this last point leads me to another topic that has crossed my path recently, namely the need to make sure that former directors and officers of public companies can rest their heads comfortably at night, without tossing and turning worrying about the possibility that their prior service as corporate officers might come back to haunt them, in the form of being named as a defendant in suits based on events that took place while they served on a board. Given the headlines in the papers and the increased risks of such service, one can understand how former board members may be concerned about personal liability after leaving a board. One answer to their concern is policies targeted directly at the risks and exposures of retired or former directors and officers, written for the express purpose of insuring them against claims instituted after they stop serving in that role. In much the same way that, as noted above, directors and officers insurance for current board members provides an additional level of shielding from potential personal liability, this product does the same thing for board members after they stop serving; one company providing the product, and more information on this type of insurance product, is here.