M&A activity is making a comeback in 2023, according to Bloomberg Law (“M&A Roars Back in $40 Billion Surge Led by Miners, Storage” A. Kirchfeld and D. Nair, Feb. 6, 2023). The rise in transactions—and the likelihood of claims involving them—will no doubt lead to continued D&O insurance coverage disputes over the “bump up” exclusion.
Policyholders can navigate this speed bump, carriers waving the recent Seventh Circuit decision in Komatsu Mining Corp. v. Columbia Casualty Co., No. 21-2695 (7th Cir. Jan. 23, 2023), and the Final Statement of Decision After Phase One Court Trial entered in Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Old Republic Insurance Co., Case No. CIV 538248 (Cal. Super. Ct. San Mateo Cty. Dec. 30, 2022), notwithstanding.
Rules for the Road to keep in mind:
1. Choice of law matters
Several courts have addressed the bump-up exclusion recently, and arrived at different results. Indeed, despite analyzing the same bump-up exclusion, the San Mateo County Court in California (applying California law) ruled in favor of insurers in Onyx whereas the Delaware Superior Court ruled in favor of the policyholders in Northrup Grumman Innovation Systems, Inc. v. Zurich American Insurance Co., 2021 Del. Super. LEXIS 92 (February 2, 2021) (the Delaware Supreme Court denied interlocutory appeal), and the Eastern District of Virginia Court (applying Virginia law) did as well in Towers Watson & Co. v. National Union Fire Insurance Co., 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 192480 (E.D. Va. Oct. 5, 2021) (currently on appeal in the Fourth Circuit). The Seventh Circuit applied Wisconsin law in Komatsu, ruling in favor of insurers based on a different version of the exclusion. In short, Delaware and Virginia law remain favorable whereas policyholders have not fared as well thus far under California and Wisconsin law. Continue Reading Navigating the “Bump-Up” exclusion in 2023: Rules for the road