PGA golfer Dustin Johnson sues Nat Hardwick for $3 million theft

PGA golfer Dustin Johnson sues Nat Hardwick for $3 million theft

Former LandCastle Title CEO was Johnson's attorney and "trusted advisor"

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Who is Nat Hardwick?

Former LandCastle Title CEO owns NASCAR team, rubs elbows with PGA pros

August 28, 2014

So just who is Nat Hardwick, the man at the center of the biggest scandal in housing finance right now?

First and foremost, Hardwick, whose full name is Nathan E. Hardwick, IV, is the former CEO of LandCastle Title and the former managing partner of Morris Hardwick Schneider, an Atlanta-based real estate law firm.

As it stands now, the two companies that Hardwick (pictured below) formerly led are suing him, alleging that he embezzled at least $30 million from the companies’ accounts and used the money to fund a fast-paced lifestyle that included private jets, luxury condos, and high-stakes gambling.

In the lawsuit, Hardwick is accused of using $1 million misappropriated from the companies to pay for private jet services, using approximately $645,000 to cover losses in failed property investments and using approximately $4 million to send to various casinos via wire transfers.

Hardwick also allegedly misappropriated funds from the firm and Landcastle to “fund a portion of his $3 million purchase of a luxury condominium unit in The Residences at The St. Regis Atlanta in February 2013.”

The news of his exit from the law firm that bears his name and the title company was revealed in a letter posted Monday to the website shared by MHS and LandCastle Title.

The letter stated that Fidelity National Financial (FNF) agreed to “step in” as 70% owner of LandCastle Title after “substantial escrow account misappropriations” were discovered at LandCastle and MHS.

Since HousingWire first broke the news of his resignation on Tuesday, Hardwick’s internet presence has slowly been disappearing, but a HousingWire investigation has revealed what kind of lifestyle Hardwick led prior to the news of this week.

Nat HardwickHis bio was removed from the companies’ joint website earlier this week, but a Google cache version of it is still available. The bio states that Hardwick graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1987 and also received his law degree from the school in 1990.

His now-deleted bio listed him as the managing partner of Morris Hardwick Schneider, and chairman of the board and CEO of LandCastle Title and the LandCastle Title Foundation.

According to the bio, Hardwick co-founded the law firm of Jackson and Hardwick in 1994. Jackson and Hardwick merged with another firm, Morris & Schneider, to create Morris Hardwick Schneider in 2005.

Hardwick’s bio states that he was profiled in the “Who’s Who in Law” feature article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle for the last four years.

His bio also lists him as the member of several prominent Georgia-state organizations, including: the State Bar of Georgia, the Georgia Bar Association, the Georgia Association of Realtors and the Georgia Real Estate Closing Attorneys Association. He is also listed as an affiliate member of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Georgia and the Georgia Association of Mortgage Brokers.

At the end of his bio, it lists Hardwick as an avid golfer, history buff and college football fan.

Being called an “avid golf fan” might be understating it.

Hardwick was a fixture on the PGA Tour pro-am circuit, playing in many tournaments, including the last several Pebble Beach Pro-Am’s in California. The Pebble Beach Pro-Am is the most popular and well-known pro-am. The 2014 tournament featured celebrities like: Tom Brady, Jeb Bush, Don Cheadle, Andy Garcia, Wayne Gretzky, Aaron Rodgers, Kurt Russell and others.

Hardwick has played in the tournament in years past, partnering with PGA pros such as John Daly in 2013, Kyle Thompson in 2012, Jamie Lovemark in 2011 and Tom Pernice, Jr. in 2010.

In fact, the PGA Tour’s own website has video of Hardwick birdieing the 13th hole during the Pebble Beach tournament in 2013.

Whether it was because of his time on the PGA pro-am scene or through other avenues, Hardwick apparently befriended several PGA pros.

Hardwick’s now deleted Twitter feed, @nathardwick, was littered with tweets from PGA pros.

On May 20, PGA Tour player Tommy Gainey tweeted to @nathardwick, “Thanks nice to have a friend like you.”

On May 13, PGA Tour player Kyle Thompson tweeted that he and Hardwick would be playing together in the BMW Charity Pro-Am. The two were partnered with Wayne Gretzky.

And on June 22, Hardwick tweeted, wishing PGA Tour player Dustin Johnson a happy birthday. Johnson quoted the tweet and responded with “Thanks Nat!!!”

Johnson and Hardwick appear to have a close relationship. Until Thursday, Hardwick’s name could be found on Dustin Johnson’s personal website, dustinjohnson.com, as a member of “Dustin’s Team.”

Hardwick was listed as Johnson’s “attorney/counselor.” His name has since been removed from the page, but a screencap (seen below) taken Wednesday at 1:38 p.m. Central showed Hardwick’s name still listed on the page. Click the image for a larger view.

Dustin Johnson's team

Hardwick was also listed as a member of the board of directors of Johnson’s foundation, but his name and photo have been removed from that page as well. A Google cache version of the page shows Hardwick as a board member of Johnson’s foundation.

Tweets from other golfers also reveal that Hardwick hosted a golf tournament of his own, nicknamed the “Natsters.”

Among the attendees at the April tournament are Thompson, Ryan Succop, who is the kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs and actor Lucas Black, each of whom have tweeted to Hardwick in the past.

Further searches show that Hardwick partially owned a NASCAR team, which was started in 2014. According to a release published on January 29, Hardwick partnered with “veteran NASCAR team owners” Jay Robinson, Joe Nemechek and other “business leaders” to form Identity Ventures Racing.

The release states that Robinson was to serve as managing partner and Nemechek, longtime NASCAR driver, would drive the team’s car.

“As both an entrepreneur and sports fan at heart, I am excited about the opportunity to step out into an entirely new arena on both fronts,” Hardwick said at the time. “The team at Identity Racing has a winning combination of experience, business sense, and passion for the sport; I look forward to being a part of the team.”

On the website Jayski.com, which refers to itself as “a portal to the world of internet NASCAR info,” and is owned by ESPN, multiple images of the team’s car can be found.

In many of the pictures, LandCastle Title’s name and logo is seen as a sponsor of the team. Several of the pictures credit Hardwick’s now-deleted Twitter feed, including a picture from March 23 with Nemechek at the wheel of the #66 Toyota. The pictures, courtesy of Jayski.com, can be seen below.

LandCastle Title NASCAR sponsor

Another picture from April 12 shows Dustin Johnson’s name and logo as the featured sponsor of the car, with credit for the picture again given to Hardwick’s Twitter feed. Picture below courtesy of Jayski.com.

Dustin Johnson NASCAR sponsor

On the website Joenemechek.net, which features a message board for Nemechek’s fans, Hardwick was part of a question and answer session with Nemechek’s fans on March 5.

His screen name for the session is “Mr. LandCastle.”

In his first post to the Q&A session’s page, Hardwick wrote “I am new as a Nascar owner and learning as I go! Joe and Jay Robinson make the track decisions along with the crew chief. I am trying to do all I can to help make the team more competitive. Any question is fair but I may have to get back to you on answers. Thanks for pulling for our team and Joe!”

Commenters to HousingWire’s original Hardwick articles stated that there was more to Hardwick’s story than has been released thus far.

One commenter stated that Hardwick has “lawsuits against him from the the Bellagio casino to Net Jets to many others for failing to pay them in Nevada to South Carolina and probably beyond.”

HousingWire investigated these claims and can confirm that Hardwick did have a judgment granted against him by NetJets Aviation in 2011. The decision (which can be read here) was filed on September 13, 2011 in Franklin County, Ohio and states that NetJets was “granted judgment against Defendant Nathan Hardwick in the amount of $1,003,327.12.”

The address listed as Hardwick’s residence matches the address listed as Hardwick’s on a campaign contribution disclosure report from 2010 for Tim Echols, which can be read here. On the form, Hardwick is referred to as an attorney for Morris Hardwick Schneider and the address listed under his name matches the address listed as his residence in the Ohio court filing.

A similar court filing was found in Beaufort County, South Carolina, listing a judgment against Nathan Hardwick in the amount of $1,003,327.12 by NetJets with a filing of foreign judgment, meaning the case was adjudicated in another location. A screencap of that judgment can be seen here.

Ed Garland, the attorney representing Hardwick in the lawsuit brought against him by MHS and LandCastle, issued a statement to HousingWire on Wednesday on Hardwick’s behalf.

In the statement, Garland said that Hardwick is not guilty of “any improper, illegal or unethical conduct,” and states that Hardwick believes all of the money he received was “properly distributed to him as his share of the profits of the firm.”

Garland said in the statement that the claims in the civil suit are false and that Hardwick “looks forward to clearing his name.”

Garland said that Hardwick “loves” his former firm and has helped to nurture its growth for more than 23 years.

“Anybody who knows Nat knows that he loves the law firm, its employees, the attorneys and the firm’s many loyal clients,” the statement said. “He would never knowingly or intentionally take money he was not entitled to or harm the firm or its clients in any way. The law firm was profitable, and Nat believed that all of the money he received was properly distributed to him as his share of the profits of the firm.”

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