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HCR Law Events

22 September 2021

What is Warranty and Indemnity insurance?

A report published by Thomas Reuters’ Practical Law in 2020 showed that warranty and indemnity (W&I) insurance policy backed M&A deals were up year on year since 2014 and this growth looks set to continue. It’s certainly something we’re seeing here at HCR. But what is W&I insurance and what are its benefits?

Let’s start by acknowledging that a buyer and a seller naturally have opposing interests on the sale and purchase of a business. This is particularly true in the context of the warranties, indemnities and tax covenant. The buyer wants these to be as extensive and unqualified as possible; the seller wants to limit their liability under them and exit without ongoing potential liability.

W&I insurance seeks to bridge this gap between the buyer and the seller by providing cover for losses arising from a breach of warranty, indemnity or tax covenant.

 

Buy-side W&I insurance policies

W&I insurance was originally a sell-side product, but most W&I insurance policies are now taken out by buyers. With a buy-side policy, the buyer can make a claim against the insurer rather than bring a warranty or indemnity claim against the seller under the sale and purchase agreement. Because of this, a buyer is more likely to allow the seller to cap its liability at a lower amount than would have been acceptable without the policy. This allows a cleaner exit for the seller. Although a buy-side product, it is not necessarily the buyer who pays the premiums. This is a matter of negotiation between the parties.

 

Sell-side W&I insurance policies

A sell-side policy only applies if the buyer makes a warranty/indemnity claim against the seller under the sale and purchase agreement. If the buyer makes a claim, the seller will be obliged by the terms of the policy to co-operate with the insurer in defending the claim. Sell-side policies are less flexible and generally do not allow larger policy limits. Because of this, sell-side policies are becoming less common.

What is becoming increasingly common is “stapling”. This is where the seller proposes (or insists) that the buyer enters a buy-side policy to underpin the seller’s warranties and indemnities. In other words, it’s a buy-side but seller-initiated policy.

 

Benefits of W&I insurance

The main benefits of a buy-side W&I policy are:

For the buyer

  • The buyer can claim directly against the insurer without having to pursue the seller.
  • It gives better contractual protection and a strong counterparty to recover from.
  • It mitigates multi-jurisdictional enforcement issues in cross-border transactions.
  • It preserves the (often ongoing) relationship between buyer and seller (by offering an alternative to suing the seller).

For the seller

  • A seller can usually cap its liability at a lower amount than would otherwise have been possible – enabling a cleaner exit.
  • It can help avoid the need for deferred structure and escrow arrangements – permitting a faster distribution of sale proceeds.
  • It gives peace of mind.

HCR’s Corporate team have experience advising on W&I backed deals (for buyers and sellers) and are therefore aware of common issues and pitfalls to avoid. Talk to us to discuss your options.

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About the Author
Joel Molloy, Senior Associate

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