Increasingly, M&A transactions are using representation and warranty insurance (RWI) to bridge the gap between a buyer’s desire for adequate recourse to recover damages arising out of breach of representations in the purchase agreement and a seller’s desire to minimize post-closing risk and holdbacks or purchase price escrows traditionally used as the means to satisfy such obligations. When it works, RWI provides a significant benefit to both parties: it mitigates the buyer’s risk in the event that the seller’s representations and warranties prove untrue, and it permits the seller to reduce the portion of the purchase price that it would otherwise have to leave in escrow to cover future claims for breach of those representations and warranties. However, as the coronavirus pandemic ravages the global economy, insurers are now expressly adding COVID-19 exclusions to their RWI policies. If RWI insurers decline coverage for these losses, the allocation of risk in the representations and warranties (and related indemnity provisions) will be more critical than the parties contemplated when they negotiated the transaction documents.
Unlike in the case of a natural disaster, insurers cannot quantify the economic fallout that may result from the coronavirus pandemic. This uncertainty breeds systemic concern about the number of insurance claims that covered parties of all varieties will bring, which in turn creates an industry-wide reluctance to cover the claims. Based on discussions with market participants, we understand that, at the present time, 70% to 80% of RWI insurers are broadly excluding losses resulting from COVID-19 and similar viruses, epidemics, and pandemics (including government actions in response thereto), 5% to 10% are narrowly excluding specific coronavirus-related losses that are more likely to be implicated in a particular transaction (e.g., losses caused by business interruption), and 10% to 15% may be willing to narrow their exclusions upon completion of the underwriting process, depending on their comfort level after conducting rigorous and heightened diligence. Insurers’ concerns are wide-ranging, but the representations and warranties causing the greatest distress appear to be those regarding customer retention, supply chain matters, undisclosed liabilities, and the absence of changes between the date of the seller’s most recent financial statements and the transaction closing date.
Reprinted courtesy of Lori Smith, White and Williams and Patrick Devine, White and Williams
Ms. Smith may be contacted at email@example.com
Mr. Devine may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org