Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty cites ESG among top risk drivers in D&O

Which are the main factors driving the possibility that a company and its board of directors may be sued by investors or other stakeholder groups in 2023? A poor financial performance or even insolvency amid economic uncertainty and the prospect of a global recession, a lack of robust cyber security and governance processes, or an inadequate or non-compliant response to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are among the key risk trends in the Directors and Officers (D&O) insurance space, according to Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS). Despite a downward trend in new filings, US class action securities litigation remains a key concern, particularly around mergers, while cryptocurrency companies and exchanges are subject to increasing activity, the insurer’s annual D&O report also notes.

“The recent decline in the number of filed securities and class actions in the US, coupled with an influx of new entrants, has created a more favorable market for corporate buyers of D&O insurance after double-digit percentage premium increases across key markets in 2021,” says Vanessa Maxwell, Global Head of Financial Lines at AGCS. “However, there is still a lot of risk facing insurers as macroeconomic issues and a potential slowdown loom, conditions which typically lead to an uptick in D&O claims. Inflation is likely to influence future claims through larger settlements. Cyber risk remains at an elevated level and is now seen a core duty of D&Os, with increasing scrutiny on how they respond. Meanwhile, ESG-related liabilities – whether it is inadequate action on climate change or diversity and inclusion issues – can potentially become significant exposures for D&O insurance as well.”

Regulatory action or litigation risks due to ESG-related issues are another major concern for boards, driven by increasing reporting and disclosure requirements around such topics, which could trigger claims in case of an inadequate response or non-compliance. In addition, companies and their boards also face the prospect of increasing litigation from environmental or climate groups, activist investors or even their own employees. Climate change litigation is increasing, with over 1,200 cases filed internationally in the last eight years, compared with just over 800 cases between 1986 and 2014. Most of these were filed in the US, but there are increasing filings at international courts or tribunals: 2021 saw the highest annual number of recorded cases outside the US. Another risk is misrepresenting ESG credentials or achievements – so-called greenwashing – which can also lead to regulatory action, litigation, and shareholder suits.


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