Really, you should:
The New York Court of Appeals held Pepper Hamilton had a duty to disclose in advance to the insurers the firm’s potential involvement in litigation concerning fraudulent loan securitization activities by its client, Student Finance Corp., according to a New York Law Journal article reprinted in New York Lawyer (reg. req.). The court applied Pennsylvania law in the case, which the parties agreed was controlling.
But the undisclosed, foreseeable risk of a SFC-related claim against Pepper Hamilton and partner W. Roderick Gagné, even though they had not been involved in SFC’s wrongdoing, violated a "prior knowledge" coverage-exclusion clause in the indemnity policies, the Court of Appeals held. Hence, the carriers are not required to indemnify the firm and Gagné in SFC-related claims.
"Given the law firm defendants’ role in the securitization of the loans and Gagné’s close involvement with SFC, a reasonable attorney with the law firm defendant’s knowledge should have anticipated the possibility of a lawsuit, particularly when millions of dollars may have been lost from activities of which they were aware," writes Judge Theodore Jones Jr. in the court’s unanimous 6-0 decision.
In 2002, when the law firm applied for the excess coverage, Gagné told Pepper Hamilton’s general counsel, in response to a question about the insurance application, that he knew of two suits related to SFC transactions, the ruling recounts. He was, he told the GC, "not certain" about whether the law firm might be joined in the litigation in the future.
I don’t fault Pepper Hamilton for trying, but, really, if there is a multi-million-dollar lawsuit out there related to a fraud perpetrated by a client whose business you were deep into, you should probably tell your insurer about it.
The context, too, was important: SFC went bankrupt and the bankruptcy trustee started looking to third-parties for recovery.
Want to guess where bankruptcy trustees start first?