Canada: 3M: U.S. District Court Applies Ownership Provision In Finding No Coverage For Loss Of Undistributed Limited Partnership Earnings In Investment Fraud

Last Updated: October 19 2015
Article by David S. Wilson and Christopher McKibbin

Authors: David S. Wilson, John Tomaine* and Chris McKibbin

In 3M Company v. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota considered and applied a crime policy's Ownership Provision in concluding that the insured did not have coverage for the loss of investment earnings suffered when an investment entity in which it had a limited partnership interest collapsed due to its principals' Ponzi scheme. The decision provides an example of the interaction between the Ownership Provision and statutory and common law concepts of "ownership" as they relate to partnerships.

The Facts

In 1999, 3M began investing its employee benefit plan assets in WG Trading Company LP ("WG Trading"). 3M's investment was structured as a limited partnership in WG Trading. The principals of WG Trading also maintained another entity, WG Trading Investors, LP ("WG Investors"), which was a limited partner in WG Trading. WG Trading was a regulated and audited entity, whereas WG Investors was not.

The principals of WG Trading and WG Investors were running a Ponzi scheme and, over the course of several years, diverted hundreds of millions of dollars from the two entities for their personal use. In 2009, the SEC and the CFTC initiated civil lawsuits against the WG entities and the principals, and obtained receivership orders. The receiver had considerable success in recovering assets; in fact, 3M was able to recover 100 per cent of its net capital contributions to WG Trading.

Nevertheless, 3M took the view that it had still suffered a loss, because at least some of its capital had been invested by WG Trading in legitimate vehicles and had produced legitimate earnings, but 3M was never paid those legitimate earnings.

The Ownership Provision

3M submitted a claim to National Union under its Blanket Crime Policy, and to its excess crime insurers under their follow-form excess policies. National Union determined that there was no coverage under the Crime Policy because, even if the invested funds generated legitimate earnings, the earnings did not fall within the condition of the Ownership Provision set out in Endorsement 8 to the policy, which provided that:

The insured property may be owned by the Insured, or held by the Insured in any capacity whether or not the Insured is legally liable, or may be property as respects which the Insured is legally liable.

National Union took the view that, even if 3M's investment with WG Trading generated legitimate earnings that could be quantified and attributed to 3M, those earnings were neither owned by 3M nor held by 3M in any capacity, nor were they property for which 3M was legally liable. 3M argued that the Ownership Provision did not apply or, in the alternative, that it could be applied in a manner that would bring the claim within coverage.

3M initially contended that the Ownership Provision did not even apply to the claim, because it applied only to "insured property", whereas the Employee Dishonesty insuring agreement encompassed "direct losses of Money, Securities or other property caused by Theft or forgery". Similarly, Theft was defined as "the unlawful taking of Money, Securities or other property". 3M contended that, because the Employee Dishonesty insuring agreement and the definition of Theft used the term "other property" rather than "insured property", the Ownership Provision had no application in the circumstances.

The Court quickly dismissed this argument, holding that:

Clearly, then, Endorsement 8 is not intended to define "insured property," as 3M's argument implies. Instead, Endorsement 8 simply uses the term "insured property" to limit the coverage afforded under the "Employee Dishonesty" insuring agreement. And giving that phrase its plain and ordinary meaning, ... the phrase "insured property" can only be understood as a shorthand way of saying "property whose loss is insured under this Policy"—that is, property that is insured under at least one of the insuring agreements in the Policy, such as the "Employee Dishonesty" insuring agreement.

Indeed, because "insured property" is not a defined term, the Court is at a loss to know what else it could mean. If it does not refer to property whose loss is insured under one or more of the various insuring agreements, then the Policy itself becomes nonsensical.

Did 3M "Own" the Earnings?

The more conceptually interesting ruling in the Court's decision concerned whether 3M's earnings came within the Ownership Provision. National Union contended that they did not, as 3M only owned a limited-partnership interest in WG Trading itself, rather than any of WG Trading's assets. The Court accepted National Union's position, holding that:

... what 3M owned was a limited-partnership interest in WG Trading. Up until the point at which earnings were distributed to the partners, the earnings of WG Trading were owned by WG Trading, and not by 3M or any of the other limited partners.

As noted, 3M's investment was structured as a limited-partnership interest in WG Trading. WG Trading's partnership agreements are governed by Delaware law [which] is crystal clear that a limited partner such as 3M has "no interest in specific limited partnership property." The partner's right to receive distributions of the partnership's assets does not change this fact.

Consequently, the lost earnings were not "owned" by 3M within the meaning of the crime policy, and the insurers had no obligation to indemnify 3M.

"Legally Liable"

In a footnote, the Court noted that 3M had argued for the first time in its reply brief that it had fiduciary duties in respect of the lost earnings and, therefore, the earnings fell within the "property as respects which the Insured is legally liable" part of the Ownership Provision. The Court, relying on established authority, stated that it would not consider this argument, as it had been raised for the first time in 3M's reply brief.


3M provides two key findings of assistance to fidelity insurers. First, it rejects the contention that the Ownership Provision acts as anything other than a pre-condition for recovery under the policy. In our view, 3M's argument on this point was without merit, insofar as it attempted to draw an artificial distinction between the term "insured property" as used in the Provision, and the term "other property" as used in the relevant insuring agreement and the definition of Theft. A loss must fall within an insuring agreement and must also meet the Ownership Provision.

Second, and more importantly, the Court carefully analyzed the limited partnership agreements, and applied state law, in concluding that what 3M actually "owned" was not any of WG Trading's assets, but rather a limited partnership interest in WG Trading itself, with only the possibility of future receipt of earnings upon distribution.

The same general principles of partnership law apply in Canadian common law jurisdictions such as Ontario. Subsection 7(2) of the Ontario Limited Partnerships Act states that a limited partner's interest in the limited partnership is distinct personal property, while subsection 21(1) of the Ontario Partnerships Act makes it clear that partnership property is legally distinct from property owned by the partners themselves. Thus, it is arguable that the same result should follow, were such a claim to be litigated north of the border.

3M Company v. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA., 2015 WL 5687879 (D. Minn.)

*Our guest co-author John Tomaine is the owner of John J. Tomaine LLC, a fidelity insurance and civil mediation consultancy in New Jersey. After over thirty-one years with the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, he retired as a Vice President in 2009. He is an attorney admitted in Connecticut and New Jersey, and holds a Master's Degree in Diplomacy and International Relations. He is available to serve as an expert witness in fidelity claim litigation and to consult on fidelity claim and underwriting matters. He will be a speaker at the FSLC's Fall 2015 meeting in Washington D.C.]

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

David S. Wilson
Christopher McKibbin
Events from this Firm
8 Nov 2018, Conference, Toronto, Canada

This year’s program is entitled “An Analysis of Fidelity Claims for the Modern World.” The program will address important substantive and practical issues germane to today’s fidelity claims handling.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions