Icahn claims Illumina directors asked for insurance for Grail deal approval

(Reuters) -Carl Icahn on Friday came down heavily on Illumina Inc, saying its directors demanded extra personal liability insurance against any potential claims related to the acquisition of Grail in 2021 before agreeing to signing off on the deal.

In response to Icahn’s claims, Illumina said insurance agreements with its directors were standard and it regularly reviews them to reflect appropriate coverage.

Activist investor Icahn, who owns 1.4% of Illumina, launched a proxy battle against the company earlier this month seeking divestment of cancer test developer Grail as the $7.1-billion acquisition cost investors billions of dollars.

The deal also faces antitrust opposition from the European Union, but that did not stop Illumina from going ahead and closing it. It was approved by the Federal Trade Commission in the United States in September last year.

A 2021 regulatory filing showed Illumina’s directors entered into an additional insurance agreement that provides them protection from any potential claims related to the Grail deal, including those related to regulatory approvals.

“The timing of the agreement (a day before the Grail deal closed) and language around protection against personal liability related to acquisition hints that the BoD knew there were risks to the transaction,” Evercore ISI analyst Vijay Kumar said.

Illumina has previously defended its decision to acquire Grail and rejected Icahn’s allegations over the deal, saying it would divest Grail if it lost its appeal to the European Commission.

The company has appealed a European Union’s planned order from December that would force Illumina to unwind its Grail deal.

(Reporting by Akriti Sharma and Bhanvi Satija in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza, Shinjini Ganguli and Shounak Dasgupta)