Quarterly report pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d)

Commitments and Contingencies

Commitments and Contingencies
9 Months Ended
Sep. 30, 2019
Commitments and Contingencies Disclosure [Abstract]  
Commitments and Contingencies
Commitments and Contingencies
The Company carries comprehensive liability, fire, extended coverage, business interruption and rental loss insurance covering all of the properties in its portfolio under a blanket insurance policy, in addition to other coverages, such as trademark and pollution coverage that may be appropriate for certain of its properties. Additionally, the Company carries a directors’, officers’, entity and employment practices liability insurance policy that covers such claims made against the Company and its directors and officers. The Company believes the policy specifications and insured limits are appropriate and adequate for its properties given the relative risk of loss, the cost of the coverage and industry practice; however, its insurance coverage may not be sufficient to fully cover its losses.

Concentration of Credit Risk
The Company is subject to risks incidental to the ownership and operation of commercial real estate. These risks include, among others, the risks normally associated with changes in the general economic climate, trends in the retail industry, creditworthiness of tenants, competition for tenants and customers, changes in tax laws, interest rates, the availability of financing and potential liability under environmental and other laws.
The Company’s portfolio of properties is dependent upon regional and local economic conditions and is geographically concentrated in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, which markets represented approximately 4%, 36% and 60% respectively, of the total annualized base rent of the properties in its portfolio as of September 30, 2019. The Company’s geographic concentration may cause it to be more susceptible to adverse developments in those markets than if it owned a more geographically diverse portfolio. Additionally, the Company’s retail shopping center properties depend on anchor stores or major tenants to attract shoppers and could be adversely affected by the loss of, or a store closure by, one or more of these tenants.
Regulatory and Environmental
As the owner of the buildings on our properties, the Company could face liability for the presence of hazardous materials (e.g., asbestos or lead) or other adverse conditions (e.g., poor indoor air quality) in its buildings. Environmental laws govern the presence, maintenance, and removal of hazardous materials in buildings, and if the Company does not comply with such laws, it could face fines for such noncompliance. Also, the Company could be liable to third parties (e.g., occupants of the buildings) for damages related to exposure to hazardous materials or adverse conditions in its buildings, and the Company could incur material expenses with respect to abatement or remediation of hazardous materials or other adverse conditions in its buildings. In addition, some of the Company’s tenants routinely handle and use hazardous or regulated substances and wastes as part of their operations at our properties, which are subject to regulation. Such environmental and health and safety laws and regulations could subject the Company or its tenants to liability resulting from these activities. Environmental liabilities could affect a tenant’s ability to make rental payments to the Company, and changes in laws could increase the potential liability for noncompliance. This may result in significant unanticipated expenditures or may otherwise materially and adversely affect the Company’s operations. The Company is not aware of any material contingent liabilities, regulatory matters or environmental matters that may exist.

The Company is involved in various legal proceedings arising in the ordinary course of its business, including, but not limited to commercial disputes. The Company believes that such litigation, claims and administrative proceedings will not have a material adverse impact on its financial position or its results of operations. The Company records a liability when it considers the loss probable and the amount can be reasonably estimated. In addition, the below legal proceedings are in process.

Stilwell Activist Investments LP v. Wheeler Real Estate Investment Trust, Inc., Circuit Court for Baltimore County, Maryland. This is an action brought by one of the largest investors in the Company seeking the production of documents and information beyond what the Company provides in its public filings and what it has already provided to Stilwell after a written request. The Company filed a motion to dismiss Stilwell's suit for failure to state a claim. At a hearing on that motion on October 31, 2019, the Court denied motion to dismiss, so the case will proceed, for now. Stilwell does not seek any monetary damages in this action.

JCP Investment Partnership LP, et al v. Wheeler Real Estate Investment Trust, Inc., Circuit Court for Baltimore County, Maryland. This is an action brought by a large minority shareholder of the Company alleging that in 2018, the Company breached an asset coverage ratio covenant, so as to require the Company to buy back shares of its Series D Preferred. The Company is defending this suit on the grounds it validly amended the Articles Supplementary through the Certificate of Correction filed with the Maryland Department of Taxation on or about May 3, 2018, curing any alleged breach of the covenant. Plaintiffs are not seeking any specific damage amount; rather, their prayer for relief asks the Court to order that the Company must redeem the Series D Preferred in accordance with the terms of the original Articles Supplementary, not commit any further alleged violations of the Articles Supplementary, and award them their costs, expenses and attorneys' fees. In the event a redemption is required, the redemption provisions of the Articles Supplementary permit the Company to redeem those Series D Preferred that it chooses to redeem (not necessarily JCP's Preferred Shares). Accordingly, it is difficult to assess the Company's anticipated exposure in this case at this time. The case is presently in discovery and is scheduled for trial on March 2, 2020. However, the parties conducted a settlement conference in July, 2019, and have continued their efforts to resolve the case short of trial.

Jon Wheeler v. Wheeler Real Estate Investment Trust, Inc., Circuit Court for the City of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Former CEO, Jon Wheeler, alleges that he was improperly terminated and is owed severance and bonus payments pursuant to his Employment Agreement. Altogether, his alleged damages total approximately $1.00 million. The Company is defending the action on the grounds that Jon Wheeler was properly terminated for cause, including for his failure to properly apprise the Board of Directors of critical information, and placing his own personal interests above the Company's, including contracting counsel about filing suit on his behalf against the Company and the Board of Directors while he was still CEO and President of the Board. The Company has filed a Counterclaim against Wheeler for approximately $150 thousand for reimbursement of personal expenses the Company paid, but that Wheeler should have borne. Trial of this action is scheduled for December 17, 2019. At this juncture, the outcome of the matter cannot be predicted.

BOKF, NA v. WD-1 Associates, LLC, et al, Court of Common Pleas for Beaufort County, South Carolina. This is a lawsuit filed by BOKF ("Bank of Arkansas") the lead lender for Sea Turtle project in Hilton Head, South Carolina against WD-1 Associates, LLC and Jon Wheeler for default on BOKF's two construction loans. BOKF seeks appointment of a Receiver to take over the financial management of the project that WD-1 was allegedly (mis)handling. The lawsuit pending in Beaufort County is presently stayed as to WD-1, pursuant to the Chapter 11 Bankruptcy proceeding it filed in Charleston, South Carolina. In the lawsuit pending in Beaufort County, BOKF has moved for a default judgment against Jon Wheeler, who personally guaranteed the two BOKF loans. The Company's subsidiary, Wheeler Real Estate, LLC is named in the lawsuit pending in Beaufort County solely in its position as the former property manager for WD-1 Associates, to obtain financial information. No damages are sought from Wheeler Real Estate, LLC in the Beaufort County action. The Company's subsidiaries are creditors in the Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. WD-1 is seeking a sale of the project real estate through the bankruptcy proceedings. At this juncture, the outcome of the matter cannot be predicted.

Jon Wheeler v. Wheeler Real Estate Investment Trust, Inc. and David Kelly, Individually, Circuit Court for the City of Virginia Beach, Virginia. In September, 2018, former Chief Executive Officer and President Jon S. Wheeler filed claims for defamation and tortious interference with contract expectancy, prospective business relationships and economic advantage in the Circuit Court for the City of Virginia Beach, Virginia, asserting current Chief Executive Officer and President, David Kelly, defamed him in communications with an industry association. In February, 2019, Jon Wheeler’s counsel amended the suit to add the Company as a Defendant, but dropped all but the defamation claims. Mr. Kelly and the Company are defending the lawsuit. Trial is set for June 10, 2020. At this juncture, the outcome of the matter cannot be predicted.

Harbor Pointe Tax Increment Financing

On September 1, 2011, the Grove Economic Development Authority issued the Grove Economic Development Authority Tax Increment Revenue Note, Taxable Series 2011 in the amount of $2,415,000, bearing a variable interest rate of 2.29%, not to exceed 14% and payable in 50 semi-annual installments. The proceeds of the bonds were to provide funding for the construction of public infrastructure and other site improvements and to be repaid by incremental additional property taxes generated by development. Harbor Pointe Associates, LLC, then owned by an affiliate of Jon Wheeler, entered into an Economic Development Agreement with the Grove Economic Development Authority for this infrastructure development and in the event the ad valorem taxes were insufficient to cover annual debt service, Harbor Pointe Associates, LLC would reimburse the Grove Economic Development Authority (the “Harbor Pointe Agreement”). In 2014, Harbor Pointe Associates, LLC was acquired by the Company.  

The total debt service shortfall over the life of the bond is uncertain as it is based on ad valorem taxes, assessed property values, property tax rates, LIBOR and future potential development ranging until 2036. The Company’s future total principal obligation under the Harbor Pointe Agreement will be no more than $2.26 million, the principal amount of the bonds, as of September 30, 2019. In addition, the Company may have an interest obligation on the note based on the principal balance and LIBOR rates in effect at future payment dates. During the three and nine months ended September 30, 2019, the Company funded $0 thousand and $44 thousand, respectively, in debt service shortfalls. During the three and nine months ended September 30, 2018, the Company funded $0 thousand and $5 thousand, respectively, in debt service shortfalls. No amounts have been accrued for this as of September 30, 2019 as a reasonable estimate of future debt service shortfalls cannot be determined based on variables noted above.