Core Values in Action

"Commitment and effectiveness – these two Firm values have particular significance for me. My clients often thank me for my relentless approach to protecting their legal rights in the dispute resolution process. At the same time, they tell me they appreciate my understanding of their commercial objectives and their desire to achieve a favorable outcome through negotiation. The result? My team and I have a strong record of securing great results for our clients through settlements, saving them significant expense. Of course, when opposing parties are unwilling to negotiate reasonable resolutions, my clients appreciate our highly effective written and oral advocacy before courts and arbitrators!"

Joe McCullough is a Partner in the Litigation Practice Group and Leader of the Firm's Insurance/ Reinsurance Industry Group. For more than 30 years, Joe has devoted his practice to representation of insurance and reinsurance companies in both life & health and the property & casualty matters. He has acted as counsel to insurers and reinsurers in more than 140 arbitrations, court, and administrative proceedings across the United States as well as in Bermuda, England, Continental Europe and Australia, including some of the highest-profile cases in the industry.

He regularly advises clients on a wide range of matters, including rescission claims; worker's compensation reinsurance issues; personal accident long-term care reinsurance issues and disputes, YRT issues and disputes and medical reinsurance issues; common account reinsurance issues; coverage of declaratory judgment, loss adjustment and monitoring counsel expenses; reinsurance pooling arrangements; financial reinsurance; directors and officers policy issues; petitions for pre-answer security; letter of credit disputes; follow the fortunes and follow the settlements doctrines; insurer insolvency issues and disputes; commutations; estimation and acceleration of claims; exit strategies and financial solutions for problem books of business; offset issues, including in the context of an insurer insolvency; aggregation and allocation of losses; contract drafting; broker funding of losses; records inspection rights; and fraud.

Before joining Freeborn & Peters, Joe was a Partner at Sidley & Austin, where he started and led the firm’s reinsurance practice. In 1995, Joe joined Lovells LLP, where he opened the firm's U.S. law practice, was the U.S. Regional Managing Partner for many years, served as the firm's U.S. Insurance and Reinsurance Practice Group Head.

Joe is currently a Member of the Firm's Executive Committee.

Representative Matters

  • Successfully represented life reinsurance companies in two arbitrations with their ceding company who fraudulently induced them into participating in a reinsurance quota share agreement covering risks that were part of the personal accident worker’s compensation manufactured “spiral”. Our clients settled the arbitrations on the eves of the two hearings, saving a total of more than $150 million. 
  • Served as a lead counsel on behalf of a major reinsurer challenging the re-domestication of EMLICO to Bermuda in both the Massachusetts and Bermuda courts.
  • Served as lead counsel in more than 140 reinsurance arbitrations and court cases.
  • Served as lead trial counsel in AXA v. AIG (S.D.N.Y.) in a jury trial that resulted in a jury verdict in AXA’s favor for $35 million in fraud and rescission damages as well as punitive damages.
  • Represented a major Japanese reinsurer, recovering hundreds of millions of dollars from a rogue managing agent who had defrauded the client and from a large international accounting firm who audited the account, but failed to alert the client about the agent’s fraud.
  • Represented a German reinsurer in an arbitration against a U.S. insurer where the client raised breach of contract claims as well as breaches of the duty of utmost good faith. In a unanimous decision, the panel found for our client, awarding it over $15 million in compensatory damages plus 6.5% compound interest and $1 million in punitive damages. The award was confirmed by a federal court. AXA Versicherung AG v. New Hampshire Insurance Co. et al, (S.D.N.Y).
  • Successfully represented a pool of reinsurers whose fellow pool member fronted a risk for the pool and later entered into a fraudulent commutation with the underlying cedent using a grossly inflated IBNR figure (more than $100 million more than the IBNR carried on the underlying cedent’s books at the time). The fronting pool member did not pay the commutation price but instead assigned to the underlying cedent its rights under its retrocession contract with the other pool members. Our clients arbitrated the dispute with the underlying cedent/assignee and the case settled very favorably just before the evidentiary hearing was scheduled to begin. 
  • Obtained rescission of quota share treaty on behalf of reinsurer for cedent's fraudulent accounting and reporting of historical loss ratios, resulting in award of $28 million.
  • Acted as counsel for reinsurers in a large number of disputes with insolvent cedents.
  • Member of the NAIC Insurer Insolvency Offset Working Group in the late 1980s.
  • Acted as outside reinsurance counsel to the Rehabilitator of Pine Top Insurance Company of Illinois in the late 1980s.
  • Acted as counsel for a German retrocedent against a retrocessionnaire operating under a scheme of arrangement. The scheme adjudicator ruled in favor of the retrocedent, denying the retrocessionnaire’s rescission claim and ordering the retrocessionnaire to pay the claim.
Honors & Awards: 
  • International Who’s Who of Insurance and Reinsurance Lawyers
  • Chambers-USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers for Business – Insurance: Dispute Resolution: Reinsurance - 2018 (cited multiple years)
  • Illinois Super Lawyers - 2017 (cited in multiple years)
  • Leading Lawyers
  • Illinois Leading Lawyers - 2018 (cited in multiple years)
07 Dec 2016

IntAP 25th Anniversary Meeting

8:30am to 5:30pm
Joe McCullough recently spoke at The International Alliance of Asbestos and Pollution Reinsurers (IntAP) 25th anniversary meeting in Cologne, Germany.
Learn More

Education

J.D., Northwestern University School of Law, cum laude, Order of the Coif; Law Review
B.A., Georgetown University, magna cum laude
Postgraduate License in European Law, University of Gent, Belgium, high honors

State Bar Admissions

  • Illinois

Federal Bar Admissions

  • United States Court of Appeals for the Second and Seventh Circuits
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