Commitments and Contingencies
|12 Months Ended
Dec. 31, 2013
|Commitments and Contingencies Disclosure [Abstract]
|COMMITMENTS AND CONTINGENCIES
NOTE 13 — COMMITMENTS AND CONTINGENCIES
We are involved in various routine legal proceedings incidental to our business, some of which are covered by insurance. With respect to most pending litigation matters, our ultimate legal and financial responsibility, if any, cannot be estimated with certainty and our actual future expenditure to resolve those matters could prove to be different from the amount that we accrued or reserved. On a quarterly basis, our senior management and legal team conduct an in-depth review of all active legal claims and litigation matters and we record a legal or warranty accrual representing the estimated total expense required to resolve each such matter. We have reserved approximately $16.5 million related to non-warranty related litigation and asserted claims. In addition, our $22.0 million warranty reserve includes accruals for all construction defect claims that are similarly recorded in an amount we believe will be necessary to resolve those construction defect claims. Except as may be specifically disclosed herein, we currently believe that any reasonably possible additional losses from existing claims and litigation in excess of our existing reserves and accruals would be immaterial, individually and in the aggregate, to our financial results.
Joint Venture Litigation
We are a defendant in a lawsuit filed by the lenders related to a project known as “South Edge” or “Inspirada”. We are also a party to a demand for arbitration made by an entity controlled by certain co-venturers, which demand was made by that entity as Estate Representative of bankrupt South Edge, LLC. The project involves a large master-planned community located in Henderson, Nevada, which was acquired by an unconsolidated joint venture with capital supplied by us and our co-venturers, and a syndicated loan for the project. In connection with the loan obtained by the venture, we provided a narrowly crafted repayment guarantee that could only be triggered upon a “bankruptcy event”. That guarantee covers our 3.53% pro rata share of the project financing.
On December 9, 2010, three of the lenders filed a petition seeking to place the venture into an involuntary bankruptcy. On June 6, 2011, we received a demand letter from the lenders, requesting full payment of $13.2 million, including past-due interest and penalties, the lenders claimed to be owed under the springing repayment guarantee. The lenders claim that the involuntary bankruptcy filed by three of the lenders triggered the “springing” repayment guarantee. We do not believe the lenders have an enforceable position associated with their $13.2 million claim and do not believe we should be required to pay such amount because, among other reasons, the lenders breached their contract with us by refusing to accept the April 2008 full tender of our performance and by refusing to release their lien in connection with our second and final takedown in this project and we do not believe the repayment guarantee was triggered by the lenders’ filing of the involuntary bankruptcy. As a result, on August 19, 2011, we filed a lawsuit against JP Morgan Chase Bank, NA (“JP Morgan”) in the Court of Common Pleas in Franklin County, Ohio (Case No. 11CVH0810353) regarding the repayment guarantee. In reaction to that lawsuit, on August 25, 2011, JP Morgan filed a lawsuit against us in the US District Court of Nevada, which is currently being prosecuted in the name of JP Morgan's agent, ISG Insolvency Group, Inc. regarding the same issues addressed in the Ohio litigation. The Ohio action and the Nevada action have been consolidated. On October 26, 2011, the Bankruptcy Court approved a Plan pursuant to which (i) the lenders have received all payments to which they are entitled, (ii) the project has been conveyed to Inspirada Builders, LLC, which is an entity owned by four of the co-venturers in the South Edge entity (KB Home, Toll Brothers, Pardee Homes and Beazer Homes), and (iii) the four co-venturer builders claim to have succeeded to the lenders' repayment guarantee claim against Meritage.
On September 4, 2012, the Court ruled on a motion for summary judgment that JP Morgan has standing to pursue its repayment guarantee claims against Meritage, that Meritage was liable thereunder to JP Morgan and that the parties should be permitted to conduct discovery with respect to the amount of damages to which JP Morgan is entitled under the repayment guarantee. Following limited discovery, JP Morgan filed a motion for summary judgment with respect to damages, and on June 17, 2013 the Court granted the motion, ruling that Meritage owes JP Morgan $15,053,857. Later, on July 8, 2013, the Court entered Judgment in favor of JP Morgan in the amount of $15,753,344, which included an additional $699,487 for pre-judgment interest that accrued between December 6, 2012 and the date of the Judgment. We immediately appealed the Court's rulings, which is currently pending. On July 17, 2013 we posted a supersedeas bond in the amount of $16,050,604 staying enforcement of the Judgment, which was approved by the Court on July 17, 2013. Pursuant to a stipulation between the parties, the bond amount included the amount of the Judgment and additional sums for a potential award of post-judgment interest and attorneys' fees on appeal. We disagree with many of the conclusions and findings contained in the Court's order, and have challenged and will continue to challenge the rulings. In addition, we believe that the four above-named builders are liable to Meritage for any amounts that Meritage may ultimately be required to pay under the repayment guarantee, and we have filed claims against those builders to, among other things, recover from them any amounts Meritage may be required to pay under the repayment guarantee.
In March 2012, Inspirada Builders, LLC, as Estate Representative of South Edge, LLC (the original joint venture) filed demand for arbitration in the United States Bankruptcy Court in the District of Nevada against Meritage Homes of Nevada, Inc. seeking: (1) $13.5 million, relating to alleged breaches of the Operating Agreement of South Edge, LLC, for an alleged failure to pay the amounts Meritage Homes of Nevada fully tendered but South Edge rejected in April 2008; and (2) $9.8 million relating to our supposed pro rata share of alleged future infrastructure improvement costs to be incurred by Inspirada Builders, LLC (the new owner of the project and which is owned by the four builders identified above). The $13.5 million component of this claim represents the same alleged obligation and amount that is the subject of the above described pending repayment guarantee litigation between us and JP Morgan. Meritage filed a response to Inspirada Builders' arbitration claims denying liability, together with cross-claims against each of the four above-named co-venture builders for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and indemnity. On June 27, 2013, the $9.8 million claim for future infrastructure costs was dismissed. Although the balance of the parties' claims are currently pending and were set to be resolved at a hearing in late 2013, per the parties' stipulation the Arbitration has now been stayed pending resolution of the pending appeal of the Court's rulings in favor of JP Morgan in the federal court action. In connection with these on-going legal proceedings, we have established a reserve in an amount that we believe is appropriate for this matter. Our 3.53% investment in the venture has previously been fully impaired. We do not believe that the ultimate disposition of these matters will have a material adverse effect on our financial condition.
We lease office facilities, model homes and equipment under various operating lease agreements. Approximate future minimum lease payments for non-cancelable operating leases as of December 31, 2013, are as follows (in thousands):
Rent expense was $6.4 million, $5.5 million and $6.1 million in 2013, 2012 and 2011, respectively, and is included within general and administrative expense or in commissions and other sales costs on our consolidated statements of operations. Sublease income was $1.6 million, $2.0 million and $2.3 million in 2013, 2012 and 2011, respectively. Sublease income is included within other income/(loss), net on our consolidated statements of operations.
See Note 1 for contingencies related to our warranty obligations.