Ryan Mitchell featured on CBC News

October 17, 2011

 

CBC News interviews Ryan Mitchell for comments regarding the Occupy Toronto Protest to find out what businesses can do to protect themselves during the event.   Click here to watch the video.  For more information regarding commercial insurance please contact Ryan Mitchell at (416) 862-5620 or rmitchell@mitchellsandham.com to discuss further.

 

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Risk Management During Occupy Toronto

October 14, 2011

 

Ryan Mitchell, Vice President of Mitchell Sandham Insurance Brokers has been quoted in today’s Toronto Star, providing insight into the Occupy Toronto Protest happening this weekend.  He comments on risk management strategies for businesses in the downtown core to consider implementing.  Please click here to access the article.

 


WHY AUTO INSURANCE IS SO EXPENSIVE

October 5, 2011

There are many documented cases of auto insurance fraud (see G&M article, here, and Project 92),  in Ontario, and fraud is a major contributor to our auto insurance premiums. Much of this fraud loss exploits the “Accident Benefits” portion of coverage. Accident benefits coverage is an extremely important part of insurance coverage, and is mandatory in all auto insurance policies in Ontario. To combat the rising costs of auto insurance in Ontario, the Government recently reduced the minimum limits required under this portion of coverage. This effectively meant that the Government felt that people claiming under the Accident Benefits coverage were not deserving of a reasonable amount of insurance (we must all be making fraudulent claims.) This is just another example of the Government spending a lot of time, energy and (our) money addressing the symptom and not the disease. Therefore, it is has been strongly recommended that you dig even deeper and make sure you buy-up the accident benefits coverage to a more reasonable amount.

But that is not all you can do. After spending a bundle to reduce insurance benefits, the Ontario Government has also come up with a website, here, describing the Auto Insurance Anti-Fraud Task Force, establish in 2011, which offers tools to citizens to identify and combat auto insurance fraud, here.

Unfortunately, we can’t just blame Ontario Auto Insurance premiums on Fraud. This decision by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO), here, is a perfect example of where your insurance premiums are going. But before providing a very brief description of the event, it is important to know that we recognize this accident it a tragedy and we in no way intent to discount the severity of the injury or the pain and suffering of the individual or his family. An inebriated 62 year old man, riding in a luxury limousine coach, decided to do a headstand against a pole in the centre of the moving bus, to entertain his friends. The
insurance company denied his claim based on the action being outside “the ordinary and well-known activities to which automobiles are put.” They said his actions were “dangerous and excessive.” The FSCO arbitrator determined that based on the vehicle being a “party vehicle”, the actions of the injured party “fell within the normal use and operation.” There is no mention of actual insured losses, but it was a catastrophic injury, which are commonly in the millions of dollars.

There is probably not a lot we can do about the decisions of judges and adjudicators, but, instead of simply partaking in the apathetic activity of complaining about insurance premiums, we should at least try to educate ourselves on the detection and prevention of insurance fraud.

CAUTION: This article does not constitute a legal opinion or insurance advice and must not be construed as such. It is important to always consult a registered and truly independent insurance broker and a lawyer who is a member of the Bar or Law Society of the relevant jurisdiction with regard to this material before making any insurance or legal decisions. All material is copyrighted by Mitchell Sandham Inc. and may not be reproduced in any form for commercial purposes without the express written consent of Mitchell Sandham Inc. Anyone seeking to link this document from any external website must receive the consent of Mitchell Sandham Inc. by sending an e-mail to gshields@mitchellsandham.com.

 


Director and Officer Liability without Culpability

September 30, 2011

 

There has always been risk of personal loss to directors, even in absence of intent to harm. Such loss is usually financial loss and not criminal incarceration. However, even though this financial loss may be limited to legal fees incurred to achieve dismissal  or settlement (at least in the situation of absence of intent), such fees can be staggering to individuals and their personal loss will also include physical and emotional stress, damage to reputation and lost opportunities.

Today, corporate directors and officers are subject to criminal prosecution (and potentially a criminal record) based on the “responsible corporate officer doctrine” and their responsibility for the corporation not for their own conduct.

In this blog I usually stick with Canadian experiences. But due to the level of US exposure for many Canadian companies (and their executives and directors), this blog posting, here, of Kevin LaCroix in his The D&O Diary blog is worth sharing.

The Canadian perspective on risk management of criminal or quasi-criminal proceedings is three fold. First, indemnification provisions under the Canadian Business Corporations Act, here, one of the provincial Acts, or an industry based Act, should be reviewed for its trigger of indemnification or denial of indemnification. Under many such provisions the term “may” indemnify,  or
“may” advance moneys, is used, but some contain the word “shall”. These provisions also require the subjective test of “honesty” and “good faith”, and in a criminal or administrative action an additional test of “reasonable grounds for believing the individual’s conduct was lawful”, must be met before indemnification is provided.

Second is the individual contractual indemnity. By-laws may be unique to individual corporations, and they may or may not improve on statute language. Comfort will depend on the wording, but blanket bylaw indemnification can be modified and
restricted with no notice to current and (more importantly) former directors and officers, as long as a proceeding has not started. Therefore, individual contractual indemnities should be considered. I will leave this language between you and your lawyer, but there are being used more often in Canada and should be considered by every director and officer.

Third, insurance, is referenced in some indemnification provisions. The wording of the provision could be “may purchase and maintain insurance for the benefit of an individual” but it is very important to remember that this is full extent of the Government’s involvement in your D&O insurance policy. There is no vetting of that policy, there is no standard or even common policy wording in the Canadian D&O marketplace, and there is no control over who (individual or corporate entity) has access to that policy. The coverage of the policy is the responsibility of each and every director and officer. And though many directors will look to the “due diligence defence” and “reliance on officers and other experts” for protection from liability, the failure of an officer to properly procure a D&O policy for the director will mean that the director will have to cover their defence costs in the underlying suit, while they take on the cost of bring a claim against the officer for negligence. When it comes to financial statement preparation, “reliance” might provide comfort, but not when it comes to the D&O insurance policy.

The due diligence on the D&O insurance policy purchase cannot be done in this short blog posting, but, when considering criminal and quasi-criminal actions, here are a few things to look for:

  1. Is coverage limited to “civil” action?
  2. Is the reference to “criminal”action or proceeding or “penal defence” only given under a “sublimit ofliability”?
  3. Do the intertwined definitionsof “Claim”, “Loss” and “Wrongful Act” explicitly cover, exclude, limit or remain silent on “criminal” action or proceeding?
  4. Is there any reference to “Bill C-45”?
  5. Is the “Bodily Injury / Property Damage” exclusion limited (“for” preamble) or broad (“based upon, arising from, ….” Preamble)?
  6. Does the “benefits” or “statutory” exclusion extend to a health or safety act?

This is not an exhaustive list of issues under the D&O policy, but, regarding criminal actions, it is a good start. It is important to know that no D&O policy will cover the actual fine or penalty related a criminal or quasi-criminal act.

If you would like help navigating the risk of being a director officer, or you would like more information on insurance and D&O claim examples, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly.

Greg Shields is a D&O, Professional Liability, Employment Practices Liability, Fiduciary Liability and Crime insurance specialist and a Partner at the University and Dundas (Toronto) branch of Mitchell Sandham Insurance Services. He can be reached at
gshields@mitchellsandham.com,  416-862-5626, or Skype at risk.first. And more details of risk and loss control can be found on the Mitchell Sandham blog at https://mitchellsandham.wordpress.com/

CAUTION: This article does not constitute a legal opinion or insurance advice and must not be construed as such. It is important to always consult a registered and truly independent insurance broker and a lawyer who is a member of the Bar or Law Society of the relevant jurisdiction with regard to this material before making any insurance or legal decisions. All material is copyrighted by Mitchell Sandham Inc. and may not be reproduced in any form for commercial purposes without the express written consent of Mitchell Sandham Inc. Anyone seeking to link this document from any external website must receive the consent of Mitchell Sandham Inc. by sending an e-mail to gshields@mitchellsandham.com.


Employment Risk in Canada

September 23, 2011

Mitchell Sandham is again excited to have an article featured in Canadian Insurance Top Broker Magazine, called “Employment Risk in Canada” by Greg Shields.  Please click here to access the article featured in CI Top Broker.  http://www.citopbroker.com/news/employment-risk-in-canada-2699

Greg Shields is a D&O, Professional Liability, Employment Practices and Crime insurance specialist and a Partner at the University and Dundas (Toronto) branch of Mitchell Sandham Insurance Services. He can be reached at gshields@mitchellsandham.com, 416 862-5626, or Skype at risk.first. And more details of risk and loss control can be found on the Mitchell Sandham blog at https://mitchellsandham.wordpress.com/

CAUTION: These articles does not constitute a legal opinion or insurance advice and must not be construed as such. It is important to always consult a registered and truly independent insurance broker and a lawyer who is a member of the Bar or Law Society of the relevant jurisdiction with regard to this material before making any insurance or legal decisions. All material is copyrighted by Mitchell Sandham Inc. and may not be reproduced in any form for commercial purposes without the express written consent of Mitchell Sandham Inc. Anyone seeking to link this document from any external website must receive the consent of Mitchell Sandham Inc. by sending an e-mail to gshields@mitchellsandham.com.

 


Canadian Class Action Securities Claims: Legal Fees increase in Early Stage of Securities Claim

August 22, 2011

In Pennyfeather v Timminco Limited, here, the court determined that Plaintiff particulars can be compelled prior to the class action certification order, but, in turn, the statement of defence may be required prior to the order as well.

In the Pennyfeather case the plaintiff did not provide particulars, and argued that defendant’s request was premature because they are only necessary in order to plead a defence and this is not required pre-certification. He also argued that this would provide a “tactical manoeuvre for defendants, and would delay the hearing of the leave (to pursue claim under Part XXIII.1 of the Ontario Securities Act – secondary market misrepresentation) and certification motion, causing prejudice to the plaintiff and class members.”

Justice Perell decided that demanding plaintiff particulars, as well as the statement of defence pleadings, be closed “before the action moves to a certification motion” because, 1) the first of the five interdependent class action certification criteria, under s. 5 (1) of the Class Proceedings Act, 1992, is “show a cause of action”, and this would be resolved without the delay of the traditional challenge of the statement of claim, 2) early dismissal of the class would reduce costs, and, 3) it could reduce the common outcome of plaintiff’s request for leave to amend statement of claim.

If other judges apply this logic, early stage legal costs will be more expensive, but the result could be expedited decisions, earlier settlements, earlier dismissals, and shorter term distraction of management, directors and financial analysts.

This is a big case, as it pits Won Kim of Kim Orr against Alan D’Silva of Stikeman Elliott. A number of months ago both individuals were on a panel discussing Bill 198 and Secondary Market Liability and Class Actions Securities Claims, hosted by Chartis. A few of the developments they discussed included, 1) the current Canadian court split decisions on plaintiffs getting access to the defendant’s Directors’ and Officers’ liability policies, 2) the extraordinary costs of e-discovery, and 3) the significant number of Canadian class action securities claims.

The underlying action in Pennyfeather is a $520 million class action, launched in May 2009 against Timminco and certain officers and directors. It alleges that they knowingly mislead investors about growth and profit potential between March and November
2008, specifically regarding its solar-grade silicon. The case was awarded to Kim Orr in late 2009.

The D&O insurance implication are very interesting. The 2009 Management Information Circular suggested their D&O policy had a policy period of May 1 2008 to May 1 2009, with a $40 million limit and $100,000 deductible, as well as a $5 million excess Side A DIC (which commonly is a policy where the limit of liability is dedicated to non-indemnified claims against individual directors and officers,  written on a difference in conditions basis whereby the terms of the policy are broader than the underlying D&O policy.) Some information circulars will mention a split deductible for “securities” claims and for non-securities claims, which would give a good indication that the underlying policy provides considerable extensions to the corporate entity, thereby subjecting the policy to the risk of limit erosion or exhaustion to the detriment of individual Insured Persons. This circular provides no such guidance.

The 2010 circular suggests the same structure was renewed in 2009-2010 with the addition of a new additional excess limit of $5 million Side A DIC available only to independent directors. The premium increase year over year (and then again in 2011) was not extraordinary, which could suggest that the 2008-2009 policy was the one triggered by this claim. Under most common D&O policies that means that this is the only policy that would respond to all future loss “based upon, arising from, or in consequence of the prior noticed claim, including any future claims based on interrelated wrongful acts”.

A common reaction of D&O insurers to a potential limit loss claim is to extend limits of liability with each subsequent renewal and not provide a “refreshed” policy. However, even if insurers do provide a new policy, with new limits, it is rare that those new limits will have any exposure to an existing claim or related downstream claims.

Not knowing the level of “Entity Coverage” in the underlying D&O policy it is difficult to comment on the adequacy of limit in the first triggered policy. But, when the share price is $30 in mid 2008, $3 at the end of 2008, and 30 cents in 2011, and there are 196 million shares issued and outstanding, it would take an army of lawyers to make me comfortable that $45 million is going to carry this litigation over the many years it may have left.

Directors of all public companies should be requesting from their insurance broker commentary on the extent of “limit sharing” in their D&O program. The answer should not stop at Insuring Clause 3 “Entity Coverage for Securities Claims”, but should consider all extensions, endorsements, definitions and exclusion ‘carve-backs.’ Directors should also look at the precedent setting claims and seek outside legal advice on the potential cost to defend these claims and litigate their various motions and counter claims. Then directors should turn their focus internally to determine their unique circumstances to help determine appropriate limits of liability based on their priorities and insurance coverage structure. I have provided a few ideas in an earlier blog post, here.

Be wary of insurers bearing gifts, because a broad policy is not necessarily beneficial to all stakeholders in that policy. Insurers underwrite policies knowing and accepting the possibility of a limit loss. If they are going to suffer a limit loss no matter what the extent of coverage (insuring agreement A, B, C, D or 1,2,3,4) it might just be in their best interest to make the policy extremely broad, extract to most premium they can, and write their cheque very early in the claim process. Payment of the limit usually terminates their involvement in the litigation (except perhaps in Quebec where they will continuously apply to the court to end their ‘defence outside the limit’ costs), and therefore no more distraction or claim management costs, and a big pat on (their own) back for paying a limit loss.

There are many competing and conflicting interests in a D&O policy, and the only way to navigate that potential mine field is to determine coverage priorities before the policy is purchased or renewed. Entity Coverage is an extremely valuable use of premium dollars, but that value might inure only to the shareholders who are suing you.

Greg Shields is a D&O, Professional Liability and Crime insurance specialist and a Partner at the University and Dundas (Toronto) branch of Mitchell Sandham Insurance Services. He can be reached at gshields@mitchellsandham.com,  416 862-5626, or Skype at risk.first. And more details of risk and loss control can be found on the Mitchell Sandham blog at https://mitchellsandham.wordpress.com/

CAUTION: This article does not constitute a legal opinion or insurance advice and must not be construed as such. It is important to always consult a registered and truly independent insurance broker and a lawyer who is a member of the Bar or Law Society of the relevant jurisdiction with regard to this material before making any insurance or legal decisions. All material is copyrighted by Mitchell Sandham Inc. and may not be reproduced in any form for commercial purposes without the express written consent of Mitchell Sandham Inc. Anyone seeking to link this document from any external website must receive the consent of Mitchell Sandham Inc. by sending an e-mail to gshields@mitchellsandham.com.


Greg Shields of Mitchell Sandham Featured in CI Top Broker Magazine

August 15, 2011

Mitchell Sandham is excited to have an article featured in Canadian Insurance Top Broker Magazine, called “Bribery and the Board: Enforcement Around Corruption of Foreign Officials is Becoming More Strict” by Greg Shields.  Please click here to access the article featured in CI Top Broker.  To read the full article on the Mitchell Sandham Blog please click here.

Greg Shields is a D&O, Professional Liability and Crime insurance specialist and a Partner at the University and Dundas (Toronto) branch of Mitchell Sandham Insurance Services. He can be reached at gshields@mitchellsandham.com, 416 862-5626, or Skype at risk.first. And more details of risk and loss control can be found on the Mitchell Sandham blog at https://mitchellsandham.wordpress.com/

CAUTION: These articles does not constitute a legal opinion or insurance advice and must not be construed as such. It is important to always consult a registered and truly independent insurance broker and a lawyer who is a member of the Bar or Law Society of the relevant jurisdiction with regard to this material before making any insurance or legal decisions. All material is copyrighted by Mitchell Sandham Inc. and may not be reproduced in any form for commercial purposes without the express written consent of Mitchell Sandham Inc. Anyone seeking to link this document from any external website must receive the consent of Mitchell Sandham Inc. by sending an e-mail to gshields@mitchellsandham.com.