D&O – Effects of Time-Barred Crimes on D&O

Valor Econômico published an article looking at the possibility of defendants in the operation Lava Jato not being sentenced for the accused crime.

This is because, in the Brazilian judicial system, a defendant can appeal against judicial decisions, even in the Supreme Court.

The steps of the appeal process are like this: There is a sentencing by the first judge which can be appealed. It may take some years to go from the notification of appeal to the decision of the court judges. After the court ruling, there is the possibility of appeal to the supreme court, where again, more time will be needed for the ruling to be announced.

In this interim period, the crime being investigated could be time-barredThis would mean that the defendant could no longer be sentenced for the crime.

What is the relationship between time-barred crimes and D&O insurance?

When someone is prosecuted for a crime, they have the right to put off payment of defense costs until judgement. The insurer pays the legal fees and in the case of sentencing or confession, the defendant has to reimburse these costs. This means that the insurer does not cover criminal acts.

The problem of time-barred crime is that defendants that are involved in corruption, end up not being sentenced and the insurers, not reimbursed.

Perhaps the market has to change the conditions of offer in the D&O to avoid increased losses due to corruption, seeing as it is impossible to foresee the outcome of a process of this nature.

Some may ask that if D&O doesn´t cover the defense costs of corruption cases, the defendant will be vulnerable and the policy will lose its protective effectiveness. This is not the case. The policy protects the individual from, for example, strict liability as predicted in the Consumer Law, wrongful tax deeds, frequent workplace accident criminal proceedings, employment practices liability, and environmental defense costs, amongst others.

As well as this, by the recent Federal Police operations and by the levels of Leniency Agreement, we have noticed that unfortunately corruption is the modus operandi of many individuals to guarantee their participation in public contracts. In these cases, the insurance cannot serve as an instrumental aid.

Operation Lava Jato and D&O Insurance

Since news of the operation Lava Jato (“Car Wash”) started appear in the press, I heard various comments connecting it to D&O insurance.

The most common comments come from those against this type of protection and believe that a D&O policy is designed to protect corrupt politicians, marginally running businesses and always looking for ways to get around the law. Besides knowing that there are some executives that painstakingly seek economic advantage to the detriment of ethics and the law, this conduct cannot be considered to be something adopted by the majority of administrators.

These executives could have the costs incurred until final decision covered by policy, but should they be sentenced for any deed, they will have to refund everything paid out by the insurer. The insurance doesn´t cover malice or bad faith. More than an exclusion of products, this is a statute of the Civil Code and a rule of SUSEP.

Another conclusion that can be drawn following the operation is the “construction company risk”. Many insurers are seeing prominent risks for all construction companies, refusing companies in this financial area or over-raising the premium for this risk.

This is treated as a true premise with a false conclusion. In the end, not all construction companies have corrupt executives and it is not enough that a company has financial activities in areas other than construction for us to conclude that the “corruption” risk is less or non-existent.

The writing should analyze the characteristics of each risk. We cannot adopt generic criteria. This method cannot be applied in the analysis of large risks as is adopted in mass areas. It is necessary to understand if the company, no matter in what area, has a large part of its bidding revenues. When a potential risk is identified, it may be necessary to exclude any event arising from corruption from the cover. It is better to “treat” the risk to generalize and leave many administrators without any options of protection.

The most important aspect of this operation is the possibility of professionalizing the criteria for acceptance for many insurers. This is an area that is growing considerably with low rates in Brazil and many companies start to offer this product seeing it as being profitable. This caused a large offering for an average demand, resulting in premiums inferior to the risk.

The risk should be very well evaluated at the moment of acceptance, as this product is directly impacted by politics and the economy, as well as of course of individual claims that are not communicated to the insurer due to lack of knowledge of brokers and clients in how to use the policy. The Lava Jato operation will certainly result in an expressive rise in rates for the market. I hope that this grand event is considered a factor of the maturing of the Brazilian market. What some companies don´t notice is how much a given policy will add to their results and how much exposure they will have to the risk. This should be the other way around! Almost all risks are acceptable when correctly assessed and priced.

In summary, the D&O doesn´t serve to protect criminals, nor is it an area without risks that aids companies to increase revenue without exposure and principally, their acceptance cannot be generalized and superficially analyzed. The Lava Jato operation doesn´t alter the risk of Brazilian companies for D&O insurance. The risk always existed and was duly measured by insurers whose writing prioritizes the technical assessment to the commercial result. The others will have to adjust to continue operating in this complex area.