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Travelers prevails in computer fraud coverage dispute

Travelers prevails in computer fraud coverage dispute

A federal court has ruled that a Travelers Cos. Inc. unit’s crime policy does not cover a computer fraud case because its policyholder has not established the wired payments its supplier had inadvertently sent to an imposter can be considered its owned property under terms of its policy.

But the judge in the case, Posco Daewoo America Corp. v. Allnex USA Inc. and Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. of America, gave the plaintiff 30 days to amend its complaint.

According to the ruling by the U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey, Houston-based Posco Daewoo America, a chemical importer and exporter, supplied Alpharetta, Georgia-based Allnex USA with product for which Allnex owed payment.

In early 2016, an imposter posing as an employee of Daewoo’s accounts receivable department sent emails to Allnex requesting wire payments to four separate Wells Fargo & Co. accounts to satisfy receivables owed by Allnex to Daewoo — which does not have any Wells Fargo accounts.

Without confirming the email’s authenticity, Allnex sent wired payments totaling $630,058. After the fraud was discovered, Allnex recovered $262,444 of the stolen funds, but the remaining $367,613 was apparently transferred to accounts in Shanghai. Daewoo alleges Allnex owed it the remaining funds, while Allnex disagrees.

Daewoo had a crime insurance policy that covered computer crime with Travelers Casualty, a unit of New York-based Travelers, which denied coverage for the missing funds.

An issue in the case is whether the loss qualified as a “direct loss” under the policy’s computer fraud provision. The parties agree an intervening event — the Allnex employer who caused the wires to be sent — occurred between the imposter sending Allnex an email and the money appearing in the Well Fargo accounts, according to the ruling.

But while Travelers argued a direct loss is an “immediate loss to the insured party,” Daewoo and Allnex said a loss that results “from an event in a chain of events can qualify as a direct loss.”

Rather than rule on this issue, however, the ruling said that under its policy’s “Ownership of Property; Interests Covered” section, Daewoo “has not plausibly pled that it owned the property, the wired payments.”

The court granted Travelers’ motion to dismiss the case but gave Daewoo 30 days to file an amended complaint.

Michael S. Levine, a partner with Hunton & Williams L.L.P. in Washington, who is a policyholder attorney not involved in the case, said, “I was surprised, but at the same time relieved, that the court dismissed without prejudice and gave them an opportunity amend this.”

“The case will go forward with a deeper dive on the policy language,” Mr. Levine said.

In a related case referred to in the ruling, in July the U.S. District Court in New York ruled in Medidata Solutions Inc. v. Federal Insurance Co. in favor of a cloud-based services company in a coverage dispute in a case in which the company lost $4.8 million because of spoof emails. 


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