The liability insurance of the members of the board of directors of the Société Anonyme and of its executives is referred to in the international practice as “Directors’ and Officers’ liability insurance” or “D & Os liability insurance”. This insurance covers the damages of such persons:
(a) arising from claims against them raised by third parties (lenders, employees, shareholders) or by the company itself for injurious and negligent acts or omissions in the performance of their duties,
(b) for the risks incurred by the insurer.
In Greek legal terminology, as well as in the context of private insurance law, it is commonly referred to as insurance of the civil liability of members of the board of directors of Société Anonyme. However, the scope of the relevant insurance contract goes beyond civil liability, since its coverage extends to both the criminal and the pecuniary costs incurred in administrative courts or authorities, as will be set out below. Moreover, the relevant insurance cover is not limited to the persons who form the board of directors of the Société Anonyme but also extends to the members of the executive committee, to the substitute members as well as to the executives who carry out management duties. In fact, it is often agreed also the insurance cover of the external directors, even of the spouses, heirs or administrators of inheritance, in respect of the claims against them concerning breaches of the duties of the insured persons.
Consequently, legally more correct and more compatible with the content of the relevant insurance contract is to refer to liability insurance of the members of the management of the Sociétés Anonymes.
2.The robust growth of this insurance product
The cover of the liability of the members of the management of the Société Anonyme is a relatively new insurance product, which has strong growth in the international business community. This growth is, among other things, due to:
(a) the judicial and legislative strengthening of the liability of the members of the management over the company itself but also vis-à-vis third parties,
(b) the adoption of international corporate governance rules and the gradual imposition of a single corporate regulatory framework through Union law of the European Union,
(c) the increase in corporate insolvency as caused by the international financial crisis of 2007-2008, which has grown into an international corporate financial crisis as well as,
(d) the tendency of corporate creditors to turn against either the managers of the corporate entity or solely against them.
3.The economic and business benefits of the relevant insurance
Insuring the liability of management members of the Société Anonyme has a number of advantages that make it an attractive insurance product. It would not be an exaggeration if we described it as a necessary action and expense for individual legal entities. Indicatively, some of the reasons for confirming the need to conclude the relevant insurance contract are mentioned:
(a) such insurance cover constitutes an alternative form of financing both of the company and of the third parties in respect of the damages they have suffered under the liability of those who manage the entity,
(b) the terms and sizes of the relevant insurance contract make it easier for third parties and, in particular, for the shareholders of the recipient company to assess the risk profile of the latter,
(c) the conclusion of this insurance contract ensures control and oversight (monitoring) of the company and contributes to prudent risk management,
(d) offering this insurance cover is a fairly important reason to attract competent management executives, while
(e) the conclusion of the specific insurance contract protects the company’s reputation and credibility.
4.The nature of this insurance contract
4.1. In the context of private insurance law, liability insurance for members of the Société Anonyme is part of third party liability insurance, although, as mentioned above, it has a broader scope. This insurance is in principle general in character and is not legally required. It is included in the non-life insurance and not in the insurance of persons, as the particular damage caused to the insured’s property is restored from the realization of the insured risk. In addition, it is classified as liability insurance, as it safeguards the risk of the creation or increase of liabilities in the assets of the insured.
4.2. The liability insurance of the members of the management of the Société Anonyme usually takes the form of a genuine third-party contract, as three (3) different persons are involved:
(a) the Société Anonyme in its capacity as recipient, which concludes the relevant contract as the policyholder of the insurer and, at the same time, on behalf of third parties (that is to say, members of its management),
(b) an insurance company in its capacity as an insurer, which assumes the above-mentioned obligation to recover the damage to property not from the policyholder company but from third parties (ie members of its management) from the realization of the insured risk; and
(c) the members of the company’s management in their capacity as insured persons as well as the beneficiaries of the insurance, as their right to expect the insurance indemnity is born directly and directly incurred .
4.3. The aforementioned legal construction has the legal consequence that the Société Anonyme becomes liable for the fulfillment of the obligations arising from the relevant insurance contract due to its bearing capacity as a recipient of the insurance. In addition, the Société Anonyme is also the entity in which the rights to terminate and amend the insurance contract, as well as the right to withdraw or oppose it, are granted. On the contrary, the main obligation of the members of the management of the Société Anonyme is the non-infringement of the insurance obligations, i.e. compliance with the rules of conduct laid down by the law or the relevant insurance contract, in order to fulfill the insurer’s performance and, in particular, the payment of the insurance by the latter.
5.The insurance cover
5.1. In accordance with the aforementioned, the scope of the relevant insurance contract exceeds the civil liability of the members of the management of the Société Anonyme. However, as the basic scope of the relevant insurance cover refers to civil claims, its main basis is the damaging act which includes any actual or presumed breach of the duties of the members of the management over the company. Also, this insurance cover includes any unjust and injurious third party act or omission, error or negligence in the performance of the duties of the members of the management of the entity. That is, any individual responsibility of a director of a corporate body is enforced, whether he issued severally or jointly or independently. In this context, it is clear that the relevant insurance cover extends to the breach of substantive rules of private law which entail liability for the directors of the company. However, damages claims based on special agreements or conditions introduced by provisions of a subordinate law that exacerbate the liability of the legal entity beyond the legal provision are not covered.
5.2. In any case, however, the cover of the relevant insurance contract does not extend to activities which are contrary to public policy, which is unfair and immoral and directly oppose prohibitive legislation. For this reason, criminal penalties, fines, and other financial penalties are also excluded from cover. The fines include those imposed by the competent supervisory authorities. Nevertheless, the legal costs of prosecuting the insured person are valid. In some insurance policies, it is agreed that the costs of the criminal proceedings should be covered only if the managing director is found innocent.
5.3. Furthermore, apart from breaches of private law rules, the relevant insurance cover may extend to infringements of public law rules. Criterion for the relevant insurance cover is the nature of the compensation resulting from compensation under public law provisions. That is, if the indemnity is reparable, it falls within the liability of the members of the management of the Société Anonyme. On the other hand, if the nature of the compensation is valid, it is not covered by the relevant insurance contract. Consequently, subject to compliance with the relevant criterion, it is possible to cover pecuniary claims filed before administrative courts or administrative supervisors and the costs of the investigation by any competent authority.
5.4. Finally, the exemptions introduced in the relevant insurance contracts fall into multiple categories, depending on the practice of the insurance companies and the criteria adopted by them. In order to avoid long and unnecessary developments in the present analysis, the following clarifications are considered appropriate:
(a) the relevant insurance cover excludes claims covered by other policies, including but not limited to claims covered by professional liability insurance policies,
(b) in addition, such acts are excluded from such cover, which involve a high risk for the insurer, which usually includes the liability of the members of the management of a Société Anonyme for defamation and personal injury, the claims related to the bankruptcy of the company and damages associated with transformations of companies,
(c) furthermore, claims arising out of the liability insurance of members of the management of a Société Anonyme are excluded from claims arising in courts outside the European Union or from breach of legislation of States outside the European Union,
(d) finally, the cases of fraudulent provocation of the insurance case are reasonably excluded from this insurance cover. In particular, the claims for third-party claims or the insurance of a Société Anonyme arising out of a fraudulent breach of the management duties or the provisions of the law by the management of the corporate entity are excluded.
Apart from the above-mentioned exceptions, the relevant insurance contract applies special clauses, which refer only to the specific insurance contract or have been formulated on the basis of the development of the relevant insurance and which substantially restrict the liability of the insurer. In particular, the insurance policy may include:
(a) the group clause, which allows for the uniform identification and treatment of the insurance risk and, moreover, charges the group with less expense by covering, with a group insurance policy, all the corporate entities of a group,
(b) the own contribution clause of the insured, which entails the taking over by the insured member of the management of the Société Anonyme of a part of it and, in particular, of a certain amount or percentage of the indemnity in general or per insurance case,
(c) the clause of the serial damage (otherwise chain damage) which limits more claims arising from the same unlawful act to the same amount of insurance and the same insurance period as they are treated as a single claim,
(d) the dismissal clause of the particular member of the management of the Société Anonyme, which requires the entity to have previously denounced the relationship with that person as a necessary condition for the activation of the insurance cover,
(e) the policyholder’s insured clause, which does not allow the claims of an insured member of the management of the entity to be covered by another insured person either directly or by way of redemption. This clause appears in a variant of the clause as a non-coverage clause, which limits or prevents the relevant insurance cover. This limitation takes place according to the degree and extent of the involvement of the insured persons involved in the management of the recipient’s insurance and includes claims by persons directly or indirectly linked to one of the insured persons. Because of its introduction, it is recommended not to create situations of conflict of interest, collusion and abusive behavior, but also to avoid enrichment.
7.1. The adoption of Law 4548/2018 on the reform of the law of Sociétés Anonymes has brought about a number of changes, sometimes sweeping, in the operation of corporate entities. Regarding the responsibility of the members of their management, a previous article from the blog of this web site has provided a detailed explanation of their intra-company and criminal liabilities, as they are now formed under the new legislative status (read the first part of the article for the liability of the Members of the Board). It is easy to see the intensification of the criminalization of entrepreneurship and it is equally easy to distinguish the discretion of the corporate managers in achieving the corporate purpose.
7.2. Furthermore, in another article of the same blog, the administrative and criminal responsibilities of corporate managers vis-à-vis the State and the Insurance Organizations, as derived from the tax, insurance and customs legislation, as well as the liabilities attributed to them by specific provisions of the Civil, the Bankruptcy and Penal Code (read the second part of the article for the liability of the Members of the Board). It is clear that the exposure of the members of the Société Anonyme’s management to extremely serious risks.
7.3. It is obvious, therefore, that the liability insurance of corporate managing directors is an effective means of defending and safeguarding them against the risks stemming from corporate governance and the tightening of the legislative environment. The conclusion of the relevant insurance contract, according to the above mentioned, is characterized by strong economic and business advantages: better corporate organization, higher status and corporate solvency, clearer business image and the ability to attract competent executives. Let us not close our eyes on international business practices and international corporate governance rules: the dissemination and establishment of these policies also into the Greek business community is the only appropriate choice.
7.4. Finally, the role of the legal counsel of the company proves to be decisive in the management of the issues related to the liability insurance of the members of the management of the Société Anonyme. In this context, the legal adviser is responsible for working closely with the insurance broker, with whom the corporate entity works, to evaluate the (more) insurance options and products offered and to assist in choosing the best solution. Additionally, the duty of the legal counsel is to ensure maximum insurance of the insurance of a Société Anonyme and the insured corporate managing directors by checking the legality of the conclusion and the valid content of the relevant insurance contract. Finally, in the event of the insured risk occurring, the legal counsel must make a substantiated claim for the fulfillment of the insurer’s obligations and, in particular, for the payment of the insurance.
It should be perfectly clear:
At any stage (out of the above mentioned) the appropriate legal advice is not received, it is highly probable that the potential cost of the business will prove to be infrequently high.
P.S.: The article has been published in Greek in MAKEDONIA Newspaper (March 17, 2019).