Directors and Officers Insurance

It all started back in 1929 with the Wall Street crash, when it was felt that many directors involved could face legal action from angry shareholders. Increasingly popular in the USA, Directors and Officers insurance over the past few years has started to emerge in the UK too. It is a common misconception that legal expenses or professional indemnity insurance provide all the cover needed, however this cover is not always adequate.

Directors-and-Officers-InsuranceEven if you have been involved in the running of a limited liability company for years without a problem, your personal assets could still be at risk. FACT: It is not just companies that are at risk, any director, officer or employee carrying out supervisory functions can face unlimited personal liability for actions they take on behalf of the company.

Having legal expenses and PI cover in place is simply not enough, for example a PI policy does not provide cover against actions pursued by shareholders or employees. Frequently taken out by larger companies, SME’s are unfortunately slow to realise the potential benefits of a Directors and Officers policy. The fact is, a smaller business could be more vulnerable because it may have less stringent corporate governance procedures in place and therefore it is even more important for them to consider cover.

A D&O policy will typically cover; claims from shareholders against the management, employment tribunal costs, Health & Safety Executive enquiry costs, legal and defence costs, and damages arising from employment practices and discrimination.

With tougher stances from the regulators the risk of investigation and fines is on the increase. In 2013 fines from the Financial Conduct Authority totalled £474m, a 50% increase on the £312m its predecessor, the FSA handed out in the previous year. A D&O policy may not cover the fine, but behind every investigation there is a significant drain on management time, legal defence expenses and potential brand damage.

Why businesses need Directors and Officers cover
  • Increase in claims - Regardless of the size of the company, they are increasingly seen as targets for criticism.
  • Growing litigious society - Employees, shareholders, investors and creditors know their rights and are far more likely to take action against a company and its directors.
  • World has no boundaries - With an increase in global business, it leaves directors exposed to risks associated with the legislation and regulation in any country in which it operates.
  • Absence of risk management - Often smaller firms can’t afford adequate risk management systems which make them more susceptible to errors.
  • You could lose everything! - D&O claims pose a threat to directors’ personal assets including their homes, possessions and investments.
  • Legal Expense cover is not enough - This should not be seen as an alternative to D&O as limits tend to be lower and provide defence costs only rather than damages as well.
  • Family Fallouts - Smaller firms may be in family ownership and therefore disputes can lead to shareholder rifts and greater exposure to litigation claims amongst relatives.
  • Regulators are getting tougher - The risk of investigations are increasing and so are the associated fines. Failing to have D&O cover could be a costly mistake.