The legal firm Dustin Johnson named alongside a former board member of his foundation in an embezzlement lawsuit are asking for its dismissal, claiming they had no knowledge of the purported illegal activity.
Mark and Gerard Wittstadt of Morris Schneider Wittstadt (formerly Morris Hardwick Schneider) claim Nathan Hardwick, a former managing partner at their firm and associated title company LandCastle Title and former member of the Dustin Johnson Foundation board, acted alone in courting a $3 million loan to the firm from Johnson with the promise of a $4 million repayment over a two-and-a-half year term.
The Wittstadts claim they were unaware of Hardwick's activity until an Oct. 14 letter from Johnson's attorneys demanded full repayment of the $4 million, of which none had yet been repaid.
“Like many others, Dustin Johnson misplaced trust in Nat Hardwick, his close friend,” the motion says in part.
The firm blames Johnson for not contacting them for more details and to verify the authenticity of Hardwick's offer of "a good investment." They claim neither the firm nor Johnson ever executed an agreement compelling the firm to repay Johnson for the purported loan. Hardwick, according to Johnson's suit, has been a trusted advisor throughout Johnson's professional golf career.
Hardwick resigned from Morris Hardwick Schneider and was sued by the firm on Aug. 25, claiming Hardwick embezzled $30 million from the firm and title company to fund personal accounts and expenses. Through his attorney, Hardwick claimed the money was owed to him as his share of the firm's profits.
“Despite the serious allegations against him, Hardwick assured Mr. Johnson that Hardwick had done nothing wrong, and that Mr. Johnson’s loan was safe," Johnson's suit claims. "Despite these assurances, (the firm) failed to make the required monthly payments on September 6, 2014, and October 6, 2014.”
The firm's dismissal filing takes a shot at Johnson, who has been on a leave of absence from the PGA Tour since July 31 to deal with "personal challenges."
“Johnson is, or was, a professional golfer,” the motion says, adding in a footnote, “Apparently his status is in doubt, as Johnson has taken an indefinite leave of absence from the PGA Tour amid allegations of substance abuse.”
Golf Magazine reported Johnson was suspended for six months by the PGA Tour for a failed drug test under its anti-doping program. Johnson and the PGA Tour dispute that report.
The firm ultimately concludes Johnson's suit is frivolous.
"Throwing libelous accusations against the wall to see if they stick does not meet any acceptable pleading standard," the filing states. "And, spitting out terms like ‘racketeering’ and ‘wire fraud’ with no legal or factual foundation cannot save a meritless suit.”
The case is 1:14-cv-03457-SCJ Johnson v. Morris Schneider Wittstadt, LLC