Quarterly report pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d)

Commitments and Contingencies Commitments and Contingencies

v3.20.1
Commitments and Contingencies Commitments and Contingencies
3 Months Ended
Mar. 31, 2020
Commitments and Contingencies Disclosure [Abstract]  
Commitments and Contingencies
Commitments and Contingencies

Insurance
    
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%, 35% and 61% respectively, of the total annualized base rent of the properties in its portfolio as of March 31, 2020. 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.

Litigation
    
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 are in process.

JCP Investment Partnership LP, et al v. Wheeler Real Estate Investment Trust, Inc., Circuit Court for Baltimore County, Maryland. This was 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 a portion of its Series D Preferred. The Company defended 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. After discovery was completed, JCP filed a motion for summary judgment, which the Court denied on January 29, 2020. In February 2020, the parties reached a settlement and JCP dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice.

Jon Wheeler v. Wheeler Real Estate Investment Trust, Inc., Circuit Court for the City of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Jon Wheeler v. Wheeler Real Estate Investment Trust, Inc., Circuit Court for the City of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Former CEO, Jon Wheeler, alleges that his employment was improperly terminated and that he 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 Mr. Wheeler’s employment 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 contacting counsel about filing suit on his behalf against the Company and the Board of Directors while he was still CEO and Chairman of the Board. The Company filed a Counterclaim against Mr. Wheeler for approximately $150 thousand for reimbursement of personal expenses the Company paid, but that Mr. Wheeler should have borne. Trial of this action was held on December 17-20, 2019. Post-trial briefs were submitted on January 31, 2020. On March 10, 2020, the Court held a hearing to announce its rulings. The Court found in favor of Jon Wheeler on his claim that his employment was terminated without cause and awarded him $475 thousand for a severance payment and the cash value of applicable benefits. The Court denied Mr. Wheeler’s claims for a bonus and that his termination of employment was wrongful as a violation public policy. A hearing will be conducted to determine the award of attorneys’ fees and costs to Jon Wheeler and to the Company as prevailing parties on their claims, as well as whether pre-judgment interest should be included on the damage awards. A hearing date has not been set. Accordingly, in March 2020, the Company recorded $485 thousand on the Company's condensed consolidated statements of operations under the line "other expenses" and is accrued and unpaid as of March 31, 2020.

BOKF, NA v. WD-I Associates, LLC, Wheeler Real Estate, LLC and Jon S. Wheeler, Court of Common Pleas, Beaufort County, South Carolina. BOKF (“Bank of Arkansas”), filed an action on April 9, 2019 in Beaufort County, South Carolina, for foreclosure of the mortgage it held on the real property and improvements comprising Sea Turtle Marketplace Shopping Center (“Sea Turtle”) which was owned by WD-I Associates, LLC (“WD-I”), and Jon S. Wheeler had guaranteed the debt. Bank of Arkansas sought the appointment of a receiver to take possession and control of Sea Turtle pending the completion of the foreclosure action. In response, WD-I filed for relief under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code on May 7, 2019. The bankruptcy filing stayed the foreclosure action in State Court.

Bank of Arkansas asserted a claim in the bankruptcy as the first mortgage on Sea Turtle. The Company’s subsidiaries held a second mortgage on Sea Turtle and in addition were creditors of WD-I . On January 30, 2020, the Bankruptcy Court approved a sale price of $18.75 million. The Company will share in the $200 thousand set aside for unsecured creditors, pro rata with other unsecured creditors. Given the amount of the indebtedness owed to the Company, we will receive the largest portion of the funds. On May 1, 2020, the Bankruptcy Court granted the dismissal of the WD-I bankruptcy case upon the provisions for payment of the $200 thousand to creditors. The Company is to receive an aggregate payment of approximately $196 thousand, which the Company has not recorded as of March 31, 2020.

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 his successor, immediate past 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.

In addition, on April 13, 2020, the Company terminated the employment of the Company’s then chief executive officer and president, David Kelly, with immediate effect. On April 15, 2020, the Company received a letter from Mr. Kelly’s counsel requesting additional information relating to the termination of Mr. Kelly’s employment.  This matter is in its early stages. While no legal proceeding is in process at this time, there can be no assurance that this matter will not develop into a potential legal proceeding or be resolved in such a manner as to avoid litigation.

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 $2.42 million, 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 $2.23 million, the principal amount of the bonds, as of March 31, 2020. 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 months ended March 31, 2020 and 2019, the Company did not fund any debt service shortfalls. No amounts have been accrued for this as of March 31, 2020 as a reasonable estimate of future debt service shortfalls cannot be determined based on variables noted above.