Effective February 25, 2015, Montana’s surplus lines law, Section 33-2-301 and 33-2-302, M.C.A., (the “Surplus Lines Insurance Law”) was expanded to authorize natural disaster multi-peril insurance to be sold as surplus lines insurance in the State of Montana. , passed by the 64th Montana Legislature and signed into law, expanded the Surplus Lines Insurance Law to include natural disaster multi-peril insurance, a new type of insurance defined by House Bill 94 as “any bundled flood, earthquake, and landslide insurance.”
The Third Circuit recently ruled that a Pennsylvania statute prohibiting an unregistered businesses from maintaining any “action or proceeding” in any court in the state interferes with the enforcement of arbitration awards and therefore is preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act. The plaintiff was a non-registered company, but the parties had agreed that the arbitration could proceed and be administered under the rules of the American Arbitration Association. The district court confirmed the arbitration award, and the Third Circuit affirmed, holding that the FAA preempted application of the law because it rendered the arbitration agreement unenforceable, noting that the intent of Congress in enacting the FAA was to promote arbitration. Therefore, the Pennsylvania statute, by barring any “action or proceeding,” interfered with the enforceability of the FAA and therefore was preempted.
The issue of state statutes interfering with the enforcement of arbitration awards has been a subject of Reinsurance Focus blogs numerous times. Particularly, courts have examined state statutes that require the posting of security before a non-admitted company may file suit in that state. We will continue to monitor case law addressing whether other courts find that the FAA pre-empts similar pre-pleading security statutes.
, signed into law February 27, 2015, amends Chapter 56-46 of the South Dakota Insurance Code, Captive Law, to allow the formation and regulation of agency captive insurance companies in South Dakota. As defined in House Bill 1180, an agency captive insurance company is either: i) an insurance company that is owned, controlled or under common ownership or control by an insurance agency, brokerage, or reinsurance intermediary that only insures the risks of insurance or annuity contracts placed by or through the agency, brokerage or reinsurance intermediary; or ii) owned or controlled by a producer of service contracts or warranties that only reinsures the contractual liability arising out of service contracts or warranties sold through such producer. An agency captive insurance company may be formed as in the same manner as a pure captive insurance company. An agency captive insurance company must comply with the following financial reporting requirements:
- Submit annually no later than six months after the close of its financial year to the director a report of its financial condition using statutory accounting principles certified under oath by two of its officers. An agency captive insurance company may make written application for permission to file the annual report on a fiscal year end date that is consistent with its parent company’s fiscal year;
- Provide a report of its financial condition audited by an independent certified public accountant every five years pursuant to Chapter 58-43 if it has annual direct premiums written of less than $2.5M dollars;
- If an agency captive insurance company has $2.5M dollars or more of annual direct premiums written, it shall provide a report of its financial condition audited by an independent certified public accountant every three years pursuant to Chapter 58-43; and,
- File an actuarial opinion following the year of operation and in connection with its audited statement of financial condition.
Regarding financial and business operations, an agency captive insurance company is not subject to any restrictions on allowable investments and may make a loan to its parent or affiliated entities. However, any investment that threatens the agency captive insurance company’s solvency or liquidity may be limited or prohibited by the Director of the Division of Insurance. Furthermore, loans to parents or affiliated entities of an agency captive insurance company is subject to prior approval by the Director of the Division of Insurance. Finally, an agency captive insurance company may enter into any arrangement to provide risk management services to a controlled unaffiliated business or an unaffiliated business; however, it may not accept any insurance risk from an unaffiliated business.
A federal judge in North Carolina recently examined a reinsurance policy provision excluding loss “resulting from any claim for . . . any actual or alleged lack of good faith or unfair dealing in the handling of any claim or obligation under any insurance contract.” The case involved a request for coverage under a reinsurance policy for a lawsuit filed by a doctor against his medical malpractice carrier, the reinsured. The doctor, against whom an excess verdict had been entered, asserted a number of causes of action including bad faith refusal to settle within the policy limit. The reinsurer filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that there was no coverage for the doctor’s lawsuit based on the exclusion mentioned above because all potential loss resulted from the reinsured’s alleged lack of good faith in refusing to settle the underlying matter within the underlying policy limit. Applying North Carolina law, the court agreed with the reinsurer, concluding that all the causes of action alleged a single course of conduct involving a lack of good faith in refusing to settle within the limit. Because all potential loss “resulted from” and was “inextricably intertwined” with the bad faith allegations, the reinsurer had no duty to defend or indemnify.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued a study that is critical of arbitration in the context of consumer claims, contenting that arbitration “restricts” the rights and remedies of consumers by limiting or prohibiting class actions. For a summary of the study and links to the study and a summary fact sheet, visit our . It may be questionable whether the CFPB has given appropriate consideration to the various United States Supreme Court and federal Court of Appeals opinions concerning the enforceability of arbitration agreements under the Federal Arbitration Act, and it will be interesting to see how this CFPB’s arbitration-related pronouncements develop. Since the CFPB’s principal focus is on consumer issues, it remains to be seen if and how its activities in this area may affect the resolution of reinsurance disputes.
This post written by Rollie Goss.
An Illinois circuit court entered an agreed order of rehabilitation against a reinsurer, Millers Classified Insurance Company, following a filed by the Illinois Department of Insurance. Millers Classified’s board of directors had passed a corporate resolution on December 16, 2014 agreeing to the entry of the order of rehabilitation. The effect of the order was to create an estate comprising of all of the company’s assets and liabilities to be managed by an appointed rehabilitator. The order specifically allowed all policies where Millers Classified was the ceding company to remain in place subject to further review. All policies where Millers Classified was the assuming or retrocessional reinsurer were cancelled on a cut-off basis effective upon the order’s entry. , Case No. 2015CH (Ill. Cir. Ct. Jan. 20, 2015).
A federal district court in New York has held that the attorney-client and work-product privileges apply to coverage memoranda sought by an insured from AIG Specialty Insurance in an ongoing coverage and bad faith litigation where AIG declined coverage for claims brought under a pollution liability policy. The insured first sought production of a memorandum prepared by AIG’s own coverage counsel, which the court found “unquestionably” came within the attorney-client privilege. The insured then sought production of a memorandum prepared by coverage counsel for an additional insured named on the policy, who AIG had covered in the underlying lawsuit. The court found the memorandum was protected by the work-product privilege and because the insured neither demonstrated a “substantial need” for the document nor an “undue hardship” in obtaining equivalent information elsewhere, it was not discoverable. The court further held that certain “executive claim summaries” previously produced by AIG in redacted form were not discoverable. The redacted information concerned only reinsurance calculations and was therefore irrelevant. The court did, however, direct AIG to produce drafts of a coverage letter and any metadata pertaining to that letter, rejecting application of any privilege to that information. , Case No. 1:14-cv-03927 (USDC S.D.N.Y. March 2, 2015).
COURT ALLOWS PUTATIVE CLASS ACTION TO PROCEED WITH DISCOVERY REGARDING EQUITABLE TOLLING OF RESPA VIOLATIONS
M&T Bank Corporation, M&T Bank, and M&T Mortgage Reinsurance Company unsuccessfully sought to stay all discovery in a suit brought against it in a putative class action involving allegations that M&T violated the federal Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. The named plaintiffs were individual borrowers who entered into loan transactions with M&T and paid private mortgage insurance through M&T. M&T placed the private mortgage insurance with certain insurers who then reinsured the policies with M&T’s captive reinsurer. This scheme was allegedly an illegal sham because it did not create a bona fide reinsurance relationship. Moving to dismiss, M&T argued the entire case was barred under RESPA’s one-year limitations period. Plaintiffs countered that, under the doctrine of equitable tolling, M&T’s fraudulent conduct prevented them from discovering the RESPA violation within the one-year period.
The court allowed the plaintiffs to conduct limited discovery related to the equitable tolling argument. This ruling was in part informed by the ruling from a different judge in a companion case, Riddle v. Bank of America. The Riddle court subsequently entered an order in favor of the defendants which the plaintiffs in that case appealed. M&T thus moved for stay of all discovery pending the outcome of the appeal of the Riddle case. The motion was denied. Although some overlap existed, that the Riddle court had too narrowly limited the issue as to whether plaintiffs in that case engaged in due diligence following execution of their mortgages. , Case No. 1:12-cv-1238 (USDC M.D. Pa. Jan. 14, 2015).
This post written by Leonor Lagomasino.
COURT AFFIRMS REINSURANCE ARBITRATION AWARD BUT DIRECTS FURTHER BRIEFING ON THE ISSUE OF SEALING DOCUMENTS
A federal district court in New York confirmed an arbitration panel’s final award, but directed the parties to brief the issue of whether the continued sealing of supporting documents, filed in connection with the petition to confirm that award, was appropriate. Clearwater Insurance and the respondent insurance companies were parties to multiple reinsurance contracts and arbitrated their dispute concerning amounts billed under those contracts. Clearwater’s petition to confirm the arbitration award was unopposed and the court found no basis for vacating, modifying, or correcting it. The court did, however, question whether the continued sealing of documents, requested by both parties, was warranted. The documents were filed under seal because their public filing would allegedly violate a confidentiality agreement between the parties. This, the court found, did not justify the sealing nor overcome the strong presumption of public access to judicial documents. The parties were directed to submit additional briefing to the court on this issue. , No. 1:15-cv-00165 (USDC S.D.N.Y. Feb. 5, 2015).
Late last year, a district court judge in Connecticut granted Defendant General Electric’s (“GE”) motion to compel arbitration based on Plaintiff’s signature to GE’s Acknowledgement Conditions of Employment Form. Ms. Pingel, plaintiff, was hired by GE in 2006. Four years later she brought a discrimination action against GE, which was later resolved. As part of that resolution, Ms. Pingel received a new position within GE. That employment was contingent on Ms. Pingel signing an employment contract containing agreed upon procedures for alternative dispute resolution. GE did not provide a hard copy of these procedures to Ms. Pingel, but did provide the location of these forms online. Both parties signed the agreement. Two and a half years later, Ms. Pingel was fired. She subsequently sued for discrimination, and GE moved to compel arbitration.
Ms. Pingel opposed the motion to compel arbitration alleging (1) the agreement to arbitrate was unconscionable and (2) the parties did not have a meeting of the minds when the contract was signed. The court did not find these arguments dispositive. First, to find an agreement to arbitrate unconscionable, the provision need be oppressive or particularly one sided. The court found that as “the delegation provision equally binds both parties [this] weighs heavily against such a conclusion.” The court further noted that general challenges to a contract, here unconscionability of the arbitration agreement, does not necessarily preclude the enforcement of said agreement. That issue is for the arbitrator to decide. Ms. Pingel did not allege any specific unconscionable provisions within the arbitration agreement; therefore the general allegations are better decided by an arbitrator. Finally, as Ms. Pingel signed the acknowledgment form, the court found this compelling evidence to show a meeting of the minds. The court noted that ignorance from failing to read a contract is not a winning argument.