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[Recorded LIVE at the 2024 Claims Conference in Boston, MA!] The two head pastors of a megachurch had a falling out. One pastor left to start his own ministry, but just before he did, he changed the megachurch’s Facebook password. He now has exclusive control of the account and sole access to the 100k+ followers, so the church filed a theft claim with its first-party insurer. Is this a direct physical loss to the church’s property? Are Facebook followers even “property” with any means of valuation?

Notable Timestamps

[ 00:23 ] – Two pastors had a falling out, and one left to start his own ministry. The exiting pastor changed the Facebook passwork and took over the account, which has over 100,000 likes. The church filed a theft claim.

[ 01:17 ] – Tim, Mike, and Alissha discuss the fact that this episode was recorded live at the 2023 Claims Conference in Boston, MA.

[ 02:09 ] – The group banters about the continued relevance of Facebook groups like the one at issue in this scenario.

[ 03:00 ] – A gut feeling is not a basis for a denial. We have to go through the policy and articulate the basis for the decision.

[ 03:45 ] – A “facebook follower” doesn’t sound like property, but “my account” or “my password” or “my client list” sounds like it could be.

[ 05:19 ] – It took centuries for courts to develop and refine the meaning of land and property ownership, and “ownership” of digital assets is still a new field.

[ 05:43 ] – Is this a direct physical loss? The data is stored somewhere on a physical medium…

[ 06:30 ] – There is a special exclusion in Electronic Data for Manipulation By Employees. As for Employee Theft, Tim’s pocket policy comes in handy: “tangible property does not include electronic data.”

[ 07:40 ] – Practically speaking, can an insurer encourage an insured to “just work it out” with the thief?

[ 09:40 ] – Mike proposes “the Solomon approach.”

[ 10:50 ] – Tim provides a recap of the scenario and the points above.

Your PLRB Resources

Coverage Question on “Theft of Customer List Not Covered Under Employee Dishonesty” –

Businessowners Annotation on Electronic Data –

Businessowners Annotation on Employee Dishonesty –

[External] Moss & Barnett newsletter article “Whose Followers Are They? Establishing Ownership of Company Social Media Accounts by Aylix K. Jensen” –…

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The views and opinions expressed in this resource are those of the individual speaker and not necessarily those of the Property & Liability Resource Bureau (PLRB), its membership, or any organization with which the presenter is employed or affiliated. The information, ideas, and opinions are presented as information only and not as legal advice or offers of representation. Individual policy language and state laws vary, and listeners should rely on guidance from their companies and counsel as appropriate.

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