650 F.2d 495 (4th Cir. 1981), 80-1363, Federal Leasing, Inc. v. Underwriters at Lloyd's

Docket Nº:80-1363.
Citation:650 F.2d 495
Party Name:FEDERAL LEASING, INC. et al., Appellees, and The Bank of California, N.A. et al., Plaintiffs, v. UNDERWRITERS AT LLOYD'S et al., Appellants, v. SUBURBAN TRUST COMPANY, a Maryland Corporation, Appellee, and Federal Leasing, Inc. et al., Counterdefendants.
Case Date:June 02, 1981
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Page 495

650 F.2d 495 (4th Cir. 1981)

FEDERAL LEASING, INC. et al., Appellees,


The Bank of California, N.A. et al., Plaintiffs,


UNDERWRITERS AT LLOYD'S et al., Appellants,


SUBURBAN TRUST COMPANY, a Maryland Corporation, Appellee,


Federal Leasing, Inc. et al., Counterdefendants.

No. 80-1363.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

June 2, 1981

Argued Feb. 5, 1980.

Page 496

Eugene F. Bannigan, New York City (John D. Gordan, III, Lord, Day & Lord, New York City, John E. Sandbower, III, Robert J. Carson, Phillips P. O'Shaughnessy, Smith, Somerville & Case, Baltimore, Md., on brief), for appellants.

John Doar, New York City, Benjamin Rosenberg, Baltimore, Md. (G. Stewart Webb, Jr., Venable, Baetjer & Howard, Baltimore, Md., on brief), for appellee Federal Leasing, Inc.

Michael Sandler, Washington, D. C. (John E. Nolan, Jr., Steptoe & Johnson, Washington, D. C., on brief), for appellee Suburban Trust Co.

Before BRYAN, Senior Circuit Judge, and PHILLIPS and ERVIN, Circuit Judges.

ALBERT V. BRYAN, Senior Circuit Judge:

Federal Leasing, Inc. (Federal), a Maryland corporation engaged in the lease and sale of computer equipment, brought this action to recover damages, compensatory and punitive, of certain underwriters at Lloyd's, London (Underwriters), and a number of British insurance companies for their alleged breach of various "computer equipment lease indemnity policies." 1 These policies insure Federal against losses arising from obligations incurred by it in the financing of its transactions. The District Court entered a preliminary injunction requiring Underwriters to process claims pursuant to an agreement hereinafter treated of and previously negotiated with Federal; it is from this injunction, under which they have provisionally paid claims totalling over thirty million dollars, that Underwriters appeal.

After a hearing upon affidavits and counter-affidavits, 2 the District Judge, in accord with Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a) and 65, upon findings of fact not proven clearly erroneous and upon sound conclusions of law, passed the decree of injunction in suit. Federal Leasing, Inc. v. Underwriters at Lloyd's, 487 F.Supp. 1248 (D.Md.1980). Adopting these findings and approving the legal conclusions, we affirm.


Federal purchases computers from the manufacturer and then markets them, through leases or conditional sales agreements, to commercial and government

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users. It borrows initial purchase money from banks, insurance companies, and other institutions (investors). In the lease transactions involved here, the purchase-money loan would be evidenced by Federal's note to the investor; to amortize the loan, Federal would assign to the investor all or part of the lease payments. In conditional sales contracts, Federal would assign the agreement with its future stream of principal and interest payments to the investor at a present-value discount. 3

Although both types of contract typically extended over several years, each permitted the user on a specified notice to terminate without penalty after a shorter "firm" period. When a user exercised this privilege, Federal became obligated to the investor for the amount still owed under the original contract. The mechanics differed in the two types of transaction, but in each case Federal would attempt to make good its loss by placing terminated equipment with a new user, and we will refer to this operation generally as "remarketing."

Prior to March 1977, early terminations were not thought to present meaningful risks. Changes in the computer equipment market had been "evolutionary" rather than "revolutionary": improved capacity came only at significantly greater cost, and older computers retained value because of inflation, because they did not deteriorate, and because their capacity could be enhanced through "add-on" equipment. Thus, a user contemplating termination would be deterred by the higher cost of replacement equipment; moreover, in conditional sales transactions the user would be deterred by the sacrifice of equity built up in the course of payment. In these circumstances Federal generally could expect to remarket terminated equipment at a rate that would satisfy its obligations.

Nevertheless, a risk was there of an upheaval in market conditions. Federal and its potential investors realized that Federal's financial structure was not equal to the demands that such a reversal, coupled with numerous terminations, would precipitate. Seeking a device which would afford investors additional security, Federal asked a Baltimore intermediary to ascertain whether Lloyd's of London would insure against the hazard that early terminations would occasion losses not recoverable through remarketing. Thus it learned that such a policy had already been devised for another computer leasing concern. One Peter Nottage, manager of a Lloyd's wholesale brokerage firm, had negotiated and drafted this prototype policy in conjunction with representatives of an underwriting syndicate at Lloyd's; Nottage now acted as broker for other potential assureds seeking the same...

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