In the wake of the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, insurers and bankers feuded over directors and officers' liability policies. At issue: whether D&O policies covered claims brought by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation against a failed bank's officers. Years of messy litigation failed to settle the question conclusively, and insurers responded by tightening their policies with ironclad exclusions of future FDIC claims.

But with few bank failures in the decade and a half that followed, insurers began loosening their terms in an effort to attract new business.

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