*Kevin LaCroix discussed a recent federal district court decision that adds to the number of court rulings that the "Insured versus Insured" (IvI) exclusion in banks' D&O insurance policies does not preclude officers and directors of a failed bank from making a claim for coverage under the policy based upon claims of the FDIC as receiver against them for their alleged acts and omissions as officers and directors of the bank. This issue has come to the forefront again as a result of the waive of (mostly community) bank failures following the economic collapse of 2008. As was the case in the previous wave of savings and loan and bank failures in the late 1980s and early 1990s, insurance companies have attempted to invoke the exclusion in order to deny liability, arguing that the FDIC as receiver "steps into the shoes of the failed bank."
(As a side note, my Contracts professor in law school asserted that insurance companies have a very simple business model: Collect Premiums. Deny Liability.)
Kevin explains the exclusion in the specific policy.
The IvI Exclusion provided in pertinent part that the policy does not provide coverage for any claim against an Insured “brought by or on behalf of any Insured or Company [including the Bank] in any capacity.” The exclusion had a carve-back that preserved coverage for “a Claim that is a derivative action brought or maintained on behalf of the Company by one or more persons who are not Directors or Officers and who bring and maintain such Claim without the solicitation, assistance or active participation of any Director or Officer.”
The insurance company in the case discussed by Kevin asserted that the IvI barred coverage for claims asserted by the FDIC since the FDIC was itself the "Insured." The judge denied the motion for summary judgment filed by the insurance company and granted the FDIC and defendants' motion of summary judgment on the basis that the exclusion was "ambiguous" and could not, therefore, be used as a basis to deny coverage.
Judge Guilford went on to note that “the insurance company has the ability, as a repeat party to these contracts, to ensure that ambiguities are eliminated over time.” The insurer “had the opportunity to make clear in the Policy that the IvI Exclusion applied to the FDIC-R, and it could have done so with a simple statement.” Judge Guilford noted that, in fact, the carrier “provides an optional regulatory exclusion – not included on the policy here – that explicitly names the FDIC.”
Without thrashing through the weeds in a manner that would interest lawyers rather than bankers (and the lawyers can read the opinion via the link provided by Kevin), the takeaways for officers and directors are as follows:
- Read your policy and obtain professional, independent help to ensure that you understand it and that you get the best possible protection. As the court points out, the "regulatory exclusion" could have left the defendants high and dry if the insurance company had inserted it in the policy, Understand what could bite you in the nether regions and shop around if you have to.
- Get the protection you need before you need it. Your best opportunity to obtain the most favorable policy will be when things are going swimmingly, not when you're taking on water faster than you can bail out the dinghy.
- While the trend of court decisions appears to be in favor of the insureds and against the insurer on the issue of IvI in the context of FDIC receivership claims against former officers and directors, the issue is far from settled. Kevin points out that contrary rulings do exist (one in the Northern District of Georgia, one of the less favorable regions to be from if you plan to run a bank into a ditch) and that there appears to be questionable reasoning in some of the favorable rulings. Therefore, expect insurers to continue to litigate the issue until doing so will open the door to a can of whoop-ass sanctions and a complete failure to pass the lying-with-a-straight-face test.
*Photo's Source: Barrett Insurance Agency