A judge ruled Tuesday to sanction prominent Santa Monica developer Neil Shekhter after an eight-day hearing showed the real estate mogul forged documents, destroyed evidence, and committed perjury in connection to a dispute over a joint apartment complex venture.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bruguera dismissed Shekhter’s lawsuit and ordered the developer and his company to pay attorneys’ fees and costs for the defendant, Boston-based AEW Capital Management.
“Plaintiffs fabricated evidence, submitted perjury about the same, and destroyed evidence, while simultaneously representing to the Court that they were proffering authentic documents and that they had preserved evidence,” Bruguera’s order reads.
Shekhter initially filed the case in 2014 claiming AEW owed him $720 million for violating the terms of a joint venture agreement. The case, for all its drama, is essentially a contract dispute over the terms of the joint venture agreement between Shekhter’s NMS Properties and AEW to develop nine apartment properties on the Westside.
Shekhter claims that the terms of the 2010 deal allowed him to buy out AEW after three years – something he attempted to do in 2013 – while AEW claims there was a five-year term. After extensive forensic investigation and testimony, the judge ruled that a document submitted by Skekhter to prove his claim was not authentic.
During the investigation, Shekhter also switched out his personal computer’s hard drive, violating a court order, something his attorney, Skip Miller of Century City’s Miller Barondess, said his client admitted was a mistake.
Miller added that he vehemently disagreed with the sanctions and Bruguera’s decision to dismiss the case.
“The ruling is wrong as a matter of law and will be overturned on appeal,” Miller said.
AEW’s attorneys at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher said they were pleased with the judge’s order.
“We are grateful that the Court gave this matter the attention it deserved and came to the right result under these extraordinary circumstances,” Gibson Dunn partner James Fogelman said in a statement.
Deals & Dealmakers reporter Henry Meier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @henry_meier.