The number of decisions considering claims for insurance coverage resulting from Business Email Compromise (“BEC”) scams has been increasing, providing policyholders with some hope, and some clarity, in this muddy area. (Here and here).
Policyholders got a recent win when a federal court in New York found in Medidata Solutions, Inc. that a data-services provider’s commercial crime policy covered an almost $5 million loss suffered as a result of a BEC scam. The Court in Medidata found coverage under the insured’s computer fraud and funds transfer rider, reasoning that “fraudulent access to a computer system” extends to email spoofing. Parting company with the Fifth Circuit in Apache , the Court in Medidata recognized that such spoofing can be a legal cause of the insured’s loss. And even though an authorized employee willingly initiated the transfer, the funds were not transferred with Medidata’s “knowledge or consent.”
Despite recent wins, there remains enough uncertainty in the coverage landscape (here and here) that we suspect insurers will continue their full-on fight against coverage for these losses. To help policyholders prepare for battle, here are five things you can do NOW to maximize insurance coverage for losses from a BEC scam. READ MORE
Insurers’ recalcitrance to providing coverage for the “Business E-mail Compromise” (BEC) scam is a topic we’ve frequently discussed. On Monday, the Ninth Circuit heard oral argument in a BEC coverage action, Taylor & Lieberman v. Federal Insurance Company.
The fraudster in that case sent spoofed e-mails in 2012 to an accounting firm purporting to be from one of the firm’s clients. At the “client’s” request, the accounting firm executed two wire transfers from the client’s bank account, over which the firm had power of attorney, in amounts just under $100,000 each to banks in Malaysia and Singapore. The firm finally detected the scheme when it called the client for confirmation after receiving a third e-mail requesting another transfer of $128,000 to Malaysia. The accounting firm was able to recover most of the first wire transfer but nothing from the second, resulting in a $100,000 loss to the client’s account, which the firm restored.
The coverage landscape for “Business E-mail Compromise” (BEC) scams remains somewhat tenuous, as organizations and carriers continue to battle in court over the extent of coverage. Although recent positive, policyholder-friendly trends in the Eighth Circuit (hacker who took over a bank’s computer system) and federal district court in Georgia (scheme based on spoofing a CEO’s e-mail) found insurance coverage for fraudulently transferred funds, a recent unpublished Fifth Circuit opinion moves in the other direction. Unfortunately, this new ruling—and the uncertainty it creates—may embolden insurers in fighting coverage for these scams under crime insurance policies.
Happy U.S. National Cybersecurity Awareness Month! One year ago, in recognition of the Department of Homeland Security’s annual campaign to raise awareness about cybersecurity, Orrick’s Cybersecurity & Data Privacy Group launched its award winning blog Trust Anchor.
Almost daily we hear news about data breaches, cybersecurity and privacy enforcement proceedings, litigation, and new laws and regulations. Trust Anchor covers it all: recent cases, legislative and regulatory developments, emerging compliance standards and best practices for cybersecurity and privacy risk management, insurance trends and more! But, we don’t just report on these events, we highlight key takeaways and what these developments mean for you.
“Business E-mail Compromise” (BEC) scams are becoming an increasing concern. The FBI’s most recent report in June 2016 identified a 1,300% increase in reported incidents, reaching 22,000 victims targeted for $3.1 billion. Policyholders victimized by BEC scams should cheer the most recent decision addressing coverage for such scams. In Principle Solutions Group v. Ironshore Indemnity, a federal district court in Georgia ruled on summary judgment that a commercial crime policy covered a BEC scam in which a fraudster deceived a Principle Solutions employee into wiring $1.72 million to an account in China. The court rejected the insurer’s argument that the wire transfer was not directly caused by the BEC scam.
Principle Solutions suffered a hallmark BEC scam. The fraudster sent a spoofed email, purportedly from Principle Solutions’ CEO, to the company’s controller. The spoofed email instructed the controller to work with a specified attorney to wire funds that day for a highly confidential company acquisition. The controller then received an email from the named “attorney” with the wiring instructions. The “attorney” called the controller, representing that the CEO had approved execution of the wire and emphasizing the urgency of the funds transfer.
The controller initiated the necessary steps to execute the transfer that day. She logged into the company’s online account at its financial institution to enable the transfer approval, instructed another employee to create the wire instructions, and approved the wire transfer. The financial institution’s fraud prevention unit flagged the transaction and requested verification of the wire. The controller called the “attorney” to verify how he had received the wire instructions. The “attorney” told her he had received the instructions verbally from the CEO. The controller relayed this information to the financial institution, which then allowed the transaction to proceed.
The company discovered the fraud the next day when the controller told the CEO she had completed the wire transfer. The company immediately reported the fraud but unfortunately could not recover the funds.
Many non-cyber policies include data breach exclusions, but few cases have addressed their scope. In a recent case, a federal district court rejected an insurer’s broad interpretation of the term “data” as it was used in data breach exclusions in a multimedia liability policy. In Ellicott City Cable, the insurer contended that satellite television programming was “data” within the meaning of the exclusions. The court found the term ambiguous, construed the ambiguity against the insurer, and ruled that the underlying lawsuit triggered the insurer’s duty to defend. While the case did not involve a data breach, the decision demonstrates that data breach exclusions should be narrowly construed and also offers helpful guidance about interpreting the term “data” if it is undefined in a policy.
The underlying case involved a distribution arrangement between Ellicott City Cable and DirecTV, whereby Ellicott City Cable distributed satellite television programming to its customers. Apparently Ellicott City Cable was overzealous in serving its customers and allegedly distributed DirecTV’s programming beyond the scope of the contracts. DirecTV sued Ellicott City Cable, alleging that Ellicott City Cable fraudulently obtained and distributed DirecTV’s programming.
In one of the first court decisions to analyze in depth the coverage provided by a cyber policy, a federal judge has found that PF Chang’s policy came up short. Following a 2014 data breach in which hackers accessed and posted online 60,000 credit card numbers belonging to PF Chang’s customers, the company sought coverage under its “CyberSecurity by Chubb” insurance policy. Although PF Chang’s insurer, Federal Insurance Company (“Federal”), agreed to reimburse nearly $1.7 million for customer claims and other breach-related expenses, it refused to reimburse an additional $2 million in fees and assessments levied against P.F. Chang’s by the credit card brands. Last week a federal district judge in Arizona, applying Arizona law, denied PF Chang’s claim for reimbursement and granted summary judgment for Federal. While it held that these fees and assessments fell within the scope of coverage, the court held that the “contractual liability” exclusion barred coverage.
The Eighth Circuit’s decision last Friday in State Bank of Bellingham v. BancInsure, holding that computer systems fraud insurance indeed insures against such fraud, even where employee negligence was a contributing factor, was a positive development for financial institutions as well as any crime insurance policyholder. The Eighth Circuit agreed with the district court that under Minnesota’s concurrent-causation doctrine, the insured could recover under a standard Computer Systems Fraud insuring agreement regardless of whether any excluded peril, i.e., employee negligence, contributed to the loss because the covered peril of computer systems fraud was the “efficient and proximate cause” of the loss.
This week, a Fourth Circuit panel in an unpublished decision validated arguments long made by policyholders: that commercial general liability policies may provide coverage for certain data breach liabilities. In this case, Travelers Indemnity Company v. Portal Healthcare Solutions, the appellate court affirmed the district court’s 2014 ruling that an insurer had the duty to defend a company that provides electronic medical record management services in a class action alleging that the company made patients’ confidential records publicly accessible by posting the records to an unsecured public website.
The insurance industry has been making the case to Congress that cyberinsurance can be a path to good security practices, encouraging different groups inside an organization to better communicate with one another. The process of investigating, applying for and being approved for cyberinsurance may indeed prompt important discussions inside organizations about cybersecurity. And it may be a subject that prompts board-level discussion of cyber preparedness. But in our view, relying on cyberinsurance as the spark for those conversations is the tail wagging the dog or the chicken not the egg or the egg not the chicken.