Two of the attorneys that stand accused of conspiring to steal $3 million from PGA golfer Dustin Johnson have answered Johnson’s latest blockbuster claims against them, calling Johnson’s lawsuit a work of fiction “worthy of John le Carre.”
In an amended motion to dismiss, filed Monday in United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia and obtained exclusively by HousingWire, Mark and Gerard (Rod) Wittstadt, who Johnson accused of conspiring with their former partner, Nathan (Nat) Hardwick, to steal $3 million from Johnson, reiterated to the court that Hardwick is solely to blame for any theft of Johnson’s money that may have taken place.
In his original lawsuit, Johnson said that Hardwick, who according to various legal filings was a “close friend” of Johnson’s and acted as his lawyer, was a part of conspiracy with the Wittstadts to defraud Johnson of his “hard-earned” money.
Unbeknownst to Johnson at the time was the fact that the Wittstadts had filed suit against Hardwick, accusing him of embezzling at least $30 million from the accounts of the law firm of Morris Hardwick Schneider (now known as Morris Schneider Wittstadt) and its subsidiary, LandCastle Title.
Johnson’s latest amended complaint, filed last week, called Hardwick a “pawn,” who was set up by the Wittstadts to take the fall for the shortages discovered within the companies’ accounts.
In their amended motion to dismiss, the Wittstadts say that Johnson’s reversal from initially calling Hardwick a “racketeer” to later referring to Hardwick as a pawn raises “serious questions” about Johnson’s judgment.
“Dustin Johnson’s first wild theory, that his friend Nat Hardwick conspired with the Wittstadt Defendants to steal $3 million, was so ludicrous that he abandoned it,” the Wittstadts said in their latest motion to dismiss.
“Johnson’s new yarn, that he and his friend are patsies in a complex, serpentine fraud scheme, would be even more laughable but for the damage that such patently false allegations cause to the reputations of good lawyers who are, without any question, the true victims here.”
The Wittstadts contend that, as they have from the time that they initially sued Hardwick, that Hardwick embezzled at least $30 million from the firm and then subsequently contacted Johnson, with a “really good investment.”
Hardwick allegedly told Johnson that if he loaned the firm $3 million, the firm would pay him back $4 million in equal monthly installments over a 30-month term, beginning on Sept. 6 and secured by a promissory note and guaranteed by the firm.
But the Wittstadts say that no such document exists.
“Stripped of rhetoric and speculation, Johnson’s allegations boil down to this: All based on what Nat Hardwick told him, without ever signing, or even seeing, a loan document of any kind, Dustin Johnson loaned Hardwick $3 million and wired the loan proceeds to an account identified by Hardwick,” the Wittstadts say.
“The account was at MSW and Johnson only can speculate as to what Hardwick might have told the Wittstadt Defendants regarding the money. From these simple facts, Johnson’s lawyers spin a web worthy of John le Carre; no more accurate than any other fictional work.”
The Wittstadts say that Johnson’s theory that Hardwick was going to use the money to fund the shortages in the firm’s accounts has a “fatal” flaw.
“The alleged actionable misrepresentation was made only by Hardwick, not by the Wittstadt Defendants,” the Wittstadts say. “More specifically, Johnson alleges that Hardwick’s promise of ‘a very good investment’ with an unconscionable $1 million return was the actionable misrepresentation but these promises are not alleged to have originated with the Wittstadt Defendants.”
The Wittstadts motion to dismiss is also chock full of golf metaphors, perhaps taking not so subtle shot at Johnson’s career. In their previous motion to dismiss, the Wittstadts called Johnson’s career status into question.
“Johnson is, or was, a professional golfer,” the Wittstadts’ previous motion stated. “Apparently his status is in doubt, as Johnson has taken an indefinite leave of absence from the PGA Tour amid allegations of substance abuse.”
And their latest motion calls Johnson’s amended complaint a “mulligan” which fares not better than “his first whiff.” The Wittstadts also say that Johnson’s assertion that the supposed loan documents had gone missing, like “a ball shanked out of bounds.”
The Wittstadts also say that that Johnson’s claims are based on “patently false and irrelevant ‘facts,’ or completely unsupported, inactionable, conclusory statements.”
The Wittstadts add, “Despite now having taken two strokes, Johnson can do no more than spout inflammatory accusation and irrational conjecture. Like its predecessor, the Amended Complaint is bereft of any facts showing the Wittstadt Defendants to be any more than victims of Hardwick’s alleged misconduct.”
Hardwick is also not immune to the Wittstadts' charges in their latest motion.
“Investigation to date has confirmed that Hardwick misappropriated millions, upon millions, upon millions of dollars from MSW’s accounts to pay, among others, casinos, private jet services, his personal company, and his ex-wife,” the Wittstadts say.
“Were there anything that could have been done to stop Hardwick, the Wittstadt Defendants undeniably would have acted to prevent MSW’s loss of tens of millions of dollars,” the Wittstadts add. “Johnson’s new fairy tale that the Wittstadts conspired to oust Hardwick and cause their own firm’s loss is preposterous, not plausible.”
The Wittstadts ask the court to dismiss Johnson’s lawsuit with prejudice.
“Seeking recourse against his friend is one thing,” the Wittstadts say. “What is not acceptable is purposely abusing the Federal Court system to falsely accuse good, ethical lawyers of lies and conspiracies. Once again, the Wittstadt Defendants show the Court that throwing implausible, libelous accusations against the wall to see if they stick does not meet any acceptable pleading standard.
“Johnson’s conclusory, inflammatory assertions do not state a claim against the Wittstadt Defendants. Simply put, what Johnson theorizes, did not happen. No amount of re-pleading can revive Johnson’s baseless claims.”