Last week, we discussed a recent study that had shown that nearly every merger or acquisition transaction involving a publicly traded company last year had resulted in a lawsuit by class action attorneys aggrieved shareholders. Yesterday, the American Banker (paid subscription required) ran a story about one of the consequences of this litigation-by-the-numbers: increased underwriting scrutiny from D&O insurance carriers.
"With a pickup in M&A activity, it is the one thing that we are asking about in every meeting," Heather Hill, a regional underwriting officer in Zurich North America's Chicago office, said during a panel discussion in Greensboro, N.C., hosted by the North Carolina Bankers Association last week.
"We'd want to know about the types of banks they want to buy, the condition of those banks and the loan portfolios" that would be acquired, Hill said in an interview following the discussion. "A one-off situation is different from [acquisitions becoming] a strategic way for a client. Transparency is the overarching theme."
For instance, banks owned by private-equity firms can expect "significantly higher requirements" for liability coverage, Eric Marshall, the managing director for financial institutions at Travelers, said during the panel discussion.
Other consequences include higher deductibles and higher premiums.
This increased scrutiny and expense comes on top of increases caused by FDIC claims against former shareholders and directors of failed banks.
Bankers have endured several years of increased premiums to insure directors and officers because of the financial crisis and a high rate of bank failures in 2009 and 2010. A heightened risk of litigation from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which has a three-year window to pursue claims against managers of failed institutions, has continued to drive rates higher, panelists said.
I suppose this is looked at as simply another cost of doing business by those banks that are aggressive acquirers. For more conservative potential acquirers, it’s another potential downside to doing a deal.