SHORT PUMP — A disgruntled veteran Richmond real estate broker is suing the top brass at his former firm, accusing them of self-dealing and using the company’s employee stock ownership plan as a “tax-free cash warehouse.”
Steve Brincefield, who retired from commercial brokerage Thalhimer in 2012 after 38 years with the firm, last month filed a 56-page lawsuit against five of the company’s top executives for alleged violations of the federal Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA), conspiracy, conversion and other counts on a variety of deals and conflicts of interest that he claims depleted the value of the stock plan by millions of dollars.
The case, filed Oct. 26 in Richmond federal court, claims a botched stock buyback in 2016 caused the ESOP to overpay for shares, and then led to shareholders returning money, in part to allegedly cover up financial struggles and accounting irregularities at MGT Construction, Thalhimer’s construction arm.
The defendants in the suit are chairman and former longtime Thalhimer head Paul Silver, current CEO Lee Warfield, executive vice president Evan Magrill, CFO David Dustin, Jeff Bisger, former head of what’s now Thalhimer Realty Partners, and Lance Studdard, an ESOP consultant hired by the company.
Warfield in an email said Thalhimer had no comment on the suit. The company has yet to file its response, according to court records.
The case relates to the Thalhimer ESOP, which was created in 2003 for the benefit of employees of Thalhimer and various subsidiaries. The plan has 407 shareholders, according to the suit.
Brincefield, part of a smaller group of more-tenured employees who earned shares in the company prior to the creation of the ESOP, claims to own 17,460 shares in the plan.