Regulatory Risk

D&O’s Shifting Risks

Navigating the changing compliance environment has never been more challenging for companies.
By: | October 12, 2017 • 4 min read

Corporations obtaining cooperation credit during Department of Justice investigations became virtual whistleblowers on individuals involved in misconduct, a Sept. 9, 2015 DOJ memo intimated.


The memo got Rob Yellen’s attention. The North American product leader for directors and officers and fiduciary liability insurance product at Willis Towers Watson, FINEX, describes the memo as a product of the “individual accountability era.” Enforcement agencies have been criticized, “fairly or not,” he said, “for not holding more individuals accountable during the financial crisis.”

Now, when an employee breaks the law, you are required to notify the DOJ and provide all supporting documents. Moreover, internal efforts to resolve the legal breach should include criminal or civil liability protection for the miscreant.

“Given this, ensuring that your directors and officers liability policy has those heightened enforcement dynamics in mind is essential,” Yellen advised.

Navigating a Potential Labyrinth

The memo was also a game changer for Louis Lucullo, chief underwriting officer, financial lines, Americas AIG. Memorializing more stringent aspects of settlements sought by a regulator would have an impact on Side A of a D&O tower. Companies could possibly be “unable to indemnify if they were providing information about wrongdoing … as a result, we now see companies buy more Side A as a portion of their total D&O limits.”

Rob Yellen, North American Product Leader for directors and officers, and fiduciary liability insurance product, Willis Towers Watson, FINEX

That rings true for John Phelps, director, business risk solutions at Florida Blue and former RIMS president. Though, he notes, much depends on the state “and how liberal your indemnification can be in your bylaws.”

Florida allows one of the broadest indemnification provisions that can be included in bylaws. Phelps noted that “it makes sense to have Side A for protection in case something does slip through your coverage B.”

The complexities of indemnification, Lucullo adds, suggest that Side A alone should not be considered for bankruptcy scenarios. Situations occur “where a company is not able to indemnify or the wrongful refusal to indemnify provides for the advancement of defense costs under the Side A policy.”

Additionally, changes to federal laws impact the way state and other regulatory bodies respond to meet their own legislative obligations. “You might see local regulators step up and put their own regulations in place,” said Yellen.

The danger is the potential for “balkanization.” Suddenly, you’re fighting battles on multiple fronts. There’s a possibility for significant investigative redundancies and costs as you try to comply, and the rules and enforcement demands may vary from one authority to another. “If multiple enforcement authorities are involved, it gets complicated … and ultimately costs more as you respond,” said Yellen.

Shared Coverage Pitfalls

Many are taking a wait-and-see approach, including Shanda Davis, Travelers D&O product manager for Bond and Specialty Insurance. “We’re going to see how that plays out, but certainly states have different regulations today.”


Whatever regulatory gaps the states and local governments need to fill, she said, a comprehensive D&O program is crucial, whether public or private.

“You need that in place, to protect assets of the personal side of [directors and officers] and to attract and retain qualified executives and board members.” No one will join a company if there’s the smallest hint they might go unprotected if unfairly suspected of wrongdoing or if someone else in the company goes rogue.

Yellen added, “You don’t know everybody you’re sharing your coverage with. You want to make sure you’re going to be judged on your behavior, not the behavior of somebody [less] concerned about cooperating with the insurer.”

“You want to make sure you’re going to be judged on your behavior, not the behavior of somebody [less] concerned about cooperating with the insurer.” — Rob Yellen, North American Product Leader for directors and officers, and fiduciary liability insurance product, Willis Towers Watson, FINEX

Full severability of the application “is a critical element if you’re advising someone to buy D&O,” agreed Lucullo, “because you don’t want to invalidate your entire D&O policy due to the acts of one wrongdoer.”

While regulatory investigation coverage for individuals might be covered already, some might view the expansion of regulatory investigation under D&O for the corporate entity “as a dilution of limits,” said Lucullo, because individuals expect coverage. To address that issue, you can simply buy investigation coverage in a standalone policy, he noted. &

David Godkin is a freelance magazine writer based in Toronto. He can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

In the Fast-Paced World of Retail, This Risk Manager Strives to Mitigate Risks Proactively and Keep Senior Leaders Informed

Janine Kral works to identify and mitigate risks, building strong partnerships with leaders and ensuring they see her as support rather than a blocker. 
By: | October 29, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My very first paid job was working on my uncle’s ranch in British Columbia in the summers. He had cattle, horses and grapes — an unusual combo. But my first real job out of college was as a multi-line claims adjuster at Liberty Mutual.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

Right out of college I applied for a job that turned out to be a claims adjuster at Liberty Mutual. I accepted because they were offering six weeks of training in Southern California, and at the time that sounded really fun. I spent about three years at Liberty Mutual and then I spent a short period of time at a smaller regional insurance company that hired me to start a workers’ compensation claims administration program.

I was hired at Nordstrom as the Washington Region Risk Manager, which was my first job in risk management. When I started at Nordstrom, the risk management department had about five people, and over the years it has grown to about 75. I’ve been vice president for 11 years.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

I would say that technology has probably been the biggest change. When I started many years ago, it was all paper and no RMIS.


R&I: What risks does the retail industry face that are unique?

We deal with a lot of people — employees and customers. With physical brick and mortar settings, there are the unique exposures with people moving in and out in a public environment. And of course, with ecommerce, we have a lot of customer and employee data, which creates cyber risk — which is not necessarily a unique risk in today’s environment.

R&I: Can you describe your approach to working with senior leaders and front-line staff alike to further risk management initiatives?

It starts with keeping the pulse of what’s happening with the business. Retail moves really fast. In order to identify and mitigate risks proactively, we identify top risk areas and topics, and then we ensure that we have strong partnerships with the leaders responsible for those areas. Trust is critical, ensuring that leaders see us as a support rather than a blocker.

R&I: What role does technology play in your company’s approach to risk management?

Janine Kral, claims adjuster, Nordstrom

We have an internal risk management information system that all of our locations report events into — every type of incident is reported, whether insured or uninsured. Most of these events are managed internally by risk management, and our guidelines require that prevention be analyzed on each one. Having all event data in one system allows us to use the data for trending and also helps us better predict what may happen in the future, and who we need to work with to mitigate risks.

R&I: What advice might you give to students or other aspiring risk managers?

My son is a sophomore in college, and I tell him and his friends all the time not to rule out insurance as a career opportunity. My advice is to cast a wide net and do your homework. Research all the different types of opportunities. Read a lot — articles, industry magazines, LinkedIn. Be proactive and reach out to people you find interesting and ask them about their careers. Don’t be shy and wait for people and opportunities to come to you. Ask questions. Build networks. Be curious and keep an open mind.

R&I: What are your goals for the next five to 10 years of your career?

I have always been passionate about continuous improvement. I want to continue to find ways to add value to my company and to this industry.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

My favorite book is Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. It’s a true story about a man who was in prison in Australia after being convicted of armed robbery, and he escaped to India. While in India, he passed himself off as a doctor in a slum. It’s a really interesting story, because this is a convicted criminal who ends up helping others. I am not always successful in getting others to read the book because it’s 1,000 pages and definitely a commitment.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

Fiorella’s in Newton, Massachusetts. Great Italian food and a great overall experience.


R&I: What is your favorite drink?

“Sister Carol.” I have no idea what is in it, and I can only get it at a local bar in Seattle. It’s green but it’s delicious.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

Skydiving. Not tandem and without any sort of communication from the ground. Scary standing on a wing of a plane, but very peaceful once the chute opened, slowly floating down by myself.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

I can’t think of one individual person. For me, the real heroes are people who have a positive attitude in the face of adversity. People who are resilient no matter what life brings them.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

It’s rewarding to help solve problems and help people. I am proud of the support that my team provides others. &

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]