Dustin Johnson is claiming in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Georgia that he was scammed out of $3 million by a group of trusted advisors that include attorney Nathan “Nat” Hardwick, who has served on the board of Johnson’s charitable Dustin Johnson Foundation.
According to a HousingWire.com report, the lawsuit alleges that Hardwick and two co-conspirators used Johnson’s money to cover shortages created when Hardwick allegedly embezzled more than $30 million from the accounts and trust accounts of the Atlanta title law firm Morris Hardwick Schneider.
Hardwick is the former managing partner of the firm, and the other defendants in the suit are current firm managing partner Mark Wittstadt and Gerard “Rod” Wittstadt.
The firm is now called Morris Schneider Wittstadt, as Hardwick resigned his positions as managing partner of Morris Hardwick Schneider and its affiliated company, LandCastle Title, in late August after news broke of his alleged misconduct.
Hardwick did not respond to an email Sunday night.
Many of the documents in Johnson’s lawsuit have been sealed by the court, per a request by the defense.
Johnson’s agent, David Winkle of Hambric Sports Management, said in a text message Sunday night that Johnson does not intend to address the lawsuit through a statement or other formal response.
The Coastal Carolina alum and PGA Tour member hasn’t played on tour since announcing on July 31 that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence from the game “to seek professional help for personal challenges.”
HousingWire.com reports that Morris Schneider Wittstadt has filed a lawsuit against Hardwick alleging he used a portion of the allegedly embezzled money to fund travel on private jets, repay gambling debts and purchase a condominium at the St. Regis Atlanta. An attorney representing Hardwick released a statement, according to HousingWire.com, saying he is not guilty of “any improper, illegal or unethical conduct,” and Hardwick believes the money he received was “properly distributed to him as his share of the profits of the firm.”
Hardwick was previously listed on the dustinjohnson.com website as a member of Johnson’s “team,” referred to as Johnson’s attorney and counselor.
Hardwick is an avid golfer who has participated in several PGA Tour and Web.com Tour pro-ams, including the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on several occasions.
He has hosted an annual tournament for several years called the Natsters at The Golf Club at Cuscowilla in Greensboro Ga., where he is a member.
Johnson is reportedly a past participant. This year’s event included actor Lucas Black, former PGA Tour member and South Carolina Gamecock Kyle Thompson, South Carolina touring pros Robbie and Tommy Biershenk, touring pro Zack Byrd of Murrells Inlet and attorney Joe Rice of Charleston, who is Johnson’s former Pebble Beach Pro-Am partner.
HousingWire reports that Hardwick has also been involved in auto racing. LandCastle sponsored a race car driven by veteran NASCAR driver Joe Nemchek, and LandCastle Title’s name and logo were featured on the car. HousingWire said Hardwick was apparently at least a part owner of Nemechek’s racing team as part of Identity Ventures Racing, which was started in January by Jay Robinson, Nemechek, Hardwick and “other business leaders.”
In excerpts taken directly from the HousingWire report:
Johnson’s lawsuit states that Hardwick “played a particularly unique and significant role of trust and confidence” in Johnson’s life, serving as one of his primary advisors on all matters relating to his career as a professional golfer.
Johnson’s lawsuit alleges that before the allegations of misconduct were made public, Hardwick approached Johnson about a “really good investment.” Hardwick allegedly advised 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.
Johnson’s lawsuit also alleges that Hardwick concealed that he had told Mark and Rod Wittstadt that he would obtain a loan from Johnson to replace a portion of the firm’s depleted funds.
“Wittstadt and Wittstadt knew that Hardwick was going to do anything he could to obtain as much money as possible from Mr. Johnson and their other targets,” the lawsuit states.
Johnson says in the suit that he wired $3 million into the firm’s “Equity Partners Account” on Aug. 6, and (the firm) failed to make the required monthly payments in September and October. Johnson then gave Hardwick and the others a notice of default and demanded payment.
The lawsuit states that instead of responding to Johnson’s demand for payment, Mark and Rod Wittstadt and the firm threatened to disclose private and confidential information about Johnson they’d obtained as his attorneys if he sued them to reclaim his money.
In a statement to HousingWire, Morris Schneider Wittstadt denies the claims made in Johnson's lawsuit.
“The Wittstadt’s recently learned of Dustin Johnson's lawsuit and vehemently deny the allegations of wrongdoing made against them," the firm said. "Although they have not yet been served, they are preparing appropriate legal motions and are confident that the misplaced claims against them will fail.”