Williamstown-based real-estate firm accused of defaulting on pensions


WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- The attorney general in Arkansas has filed a motion for a default judgment seeking millions in payment against a Williamstown-based real-estate company accused of breaching a contract with the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System.

National Timber Partners, LLC, entered into a contract with the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System in October 2012, according to a release from the office of Attorney General Dustin McDaniel.

In the contract, the company agreed to purchase the retirement system's interest in NTP Timber Plus Fund I, a limited partnership, in three installments totaling $110 million, the release stated.

National Timber failed to pay all of the second installment due in June 2013, and McDaniel filed suit in September for breach of contract. The third and final installment, which was due Dec. 31, has not been paid, the attorney general said.

National Timber Partners was founded and is listed as owned by land developer Harry S. Patten, with offices listed at 665 Simonds Road in Williamstown. According to a Patten company website, Patten also owns National Land Partners, LLC, and the company said it had concluded total sales in a number of states worth more than $1 billion.

Patten formed his first land sales company in Stamford, Vt., during the 1960s and later expanded operations to other states in the Northeast and subsequently in the South and elsewhere.

"It is always troubling when a company would disregard a contract with the state, but even more so when it involves money intended to support our public employee retirement system," McDaniel stated. "We have asked the court [Pulaski County Circuit Court] to require National Timber to immediately pay its past-due debt to APERS, yet the company has continued to seek to avoid paying what it owes by delaying court proceedings."

Officials at the Williamstown office of National Timber could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

McDaniel stated that he seeks a default judgment because National Timber has failed to respond to the attorney general's lawsuit, which was filed Sept. 27. The defendant has twice asked for extensions of time to respond to the suit, which APERS has agreed to. The last deadline for a response was Dec. 19 and nothing has been filed, the AG said.

National Timber paid its first installment of $85 million, which was due on or before Dec. 31, 2012, McDaniel said. It has paid a portion of its scheduled $15 million installment that was due June 28. A final payment of $10 million due Dec. 31 was never made, he said, saying the current amount owed to APERS by National Timber is $14,298,297.

McDaniel said he asked the court to enter a default judgment against National Timber, ordering the company to pay its full obligation, in addition to pre- and post-judgment interest and attorney fees and costs.

According to papers filed with the court action, in 2006 the retirement system became limited partners with National Timber in what was called NTP Timber Plus Fund 1. On Oct. 12, 2012, National Timber entered into an agreement with the system to acquire its limited partnership interest for $110 million, to be paid in three installments, according to the suit.

In a letter from National Timber sent last May to Jay Willis, general counsel of the retirement system, the company said the continued weak economy had made it difficult to convert assets into cash to meet the payment schedule and added "we will continue our efforts to sell the fund assets as quickly as possible to meet our $110 million payment obligation."

The letter is included as an exhibit in the court action.


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