As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts life in the United States and around the world, company after company has issued corporate statements regarding the virus.
These statements are important. Given the rapidly changing and high stress nature of the situation, however, it is easy to say the wrong thing. In some cases, these statements could even open the door to directors and officers (D&O) exposures.
The Hardening D&O Market
D&O is a type of liability insurance that covers the directors and officers of a company. It covers a range of claims related to the management of the organization, including shareholder suits and breach of fiduciary duty.
As we’re currently seeing with many other commercial insurance lines, D&O rates have been rising. According to Property Casualty 360, several factors are at play, including securities action lawsuits with higher settlements, social issues including the #MeToo movement and leadership coverups, and growing cyber security issues.
Now COVID-19 could add to the list.
The Coronavirus Impact
According to Carrier Management, the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to impact D&O litigation. In fact, at least two lawsuits have already been filed. One is against Norwegian Cruise Lines, and it alleges that the cruise line used unproven or false statements about COVID-19 to encourage customers to purchase cruises. The other lawsuit is against Inovio Pharmaceuticals, and it alleges that the CEO made inaccurate claims regarding its work on a COVID-19 vaccine, causing the company’s stocks to soar before dropping.
This may be just the beginning. As the pandemic continues, more lawsuits could emerge. Businesses should proceed carefully to reduce their liability.