The Supreme Court of New Hampshire has reversed a trial court’s ruling denying a reinsurer’s (CIC) asserted setoff of reinsurance claims in the liquidation of the Home Insurance Company (Home). CIC reinsured Home, remitting money to Home under a claims protocol that provided for a right of setoff controlled by a New Hampshire statute. Separately, CIC also reinsured certain affiliated insurance companies that had ceded a participation in their liabilities under certain policies in exchange for, among other things, an assignment of all rights to reinsurance recoverables relating to those policies. However, this assignment was qualified by a “put-back” provision that required CIC to return to its affiliated cedents any reinsurance recoverables deemed by CIC to be uncollectible, together with the rights to any related collateral. Among the reinsurance claims assigned to CIC were reinsurance obligations of Home to the affiliated cedents, i.e., reinsurance recoverables. Accordingly, pursuant to the claims protocol between CIC and Home, CIC sought to setoff amounts payable by it to Home against these recoverables.
Home’s liquidator objected to the attempted setoff, arguing that the New Hampshire statute referenced in the claims protocol required that setoff debts be “mutual,” and that the put-back provision destroyed mutuality by rendering the assignment conditional, not absolute. The liquidator contended that the provision made the affiliated cedents, not CIC, ultimately liable for the reinsurance. A referee ruled in favor of the liquidator, and the trial court sustained that ruling, reasoning that the mutuality requirement was not satisfied because the terms of the assignment required the return of uncollectible reinsurance, and so the assignment was conditional. On appeal, the New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed, concluding the assignment was, in fact, absolute, the put-back provision notwithstanding. The Supreme Court found that, although the provision allocated risk to the affiliated cedents, this “retained interest” was not fatal. Importantly, CIC, not the affiliated cedents, controlled implementation of the provision; thus, “the provision did not constitute a prohibited means of control over the reinsurance recoverables or ‘any form of revocation’ in the hands of the affiliated cedents.” In the Matter of the Liquidation of the Home Insurance Company, Case No. 2007-794 (July 25, 2008).