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HCP chairman calls Welltower's Brinker lawsuit dismaying, 'inexplicable'

HCP Inc. Chairman Michael McKee slammed a lawsuit that competitor Welltower Inc. filed against an executive seeking to jump between the companies, calling the action "inexplicable."

Welltower has accused its former chief investment officer, Scott Brinker, of breaching his separation agreement by talking with HCP — which eventually moved to hire him in the same role — and of maintaining a "treasure trove" of highly sensitive Welltower documents in a personal account. In a filing, Brinker dismissed the latter claim as an "outright lie."

Welltower is not suing HCP but referred to its rival healthcare real estate investment trust as a "co-conspirator" in a legal filing.

In an earnings conference call, McKee said HCP remains "delighted" that Brinker plans to join the company in January 2018, after the end of his noncompete agreement. The company has indemnified Brinker from any liability arising from the hiring, excluding consequences from bad acts on Brinker's part, McKee said.

"We're pretty aware of the process that went on here, and as far as we can tell, there's no 'there' there," McKee said. "There may be, at the end of the day, some of what I would call immaterial costs to bring him over and go through this litigation. But we think that is a cost that we were willing to bear, to bring what we think is a very special person onto our team."

He added: "Personally, I continue to be very disappointed, and frankly dismayed, as the process worked out and as we know the facts better than most, that Scott is having to go through this situation. But he will get through it."

McKee said Brinker is bringing a countersuit against Welltower for defamation, adding: "That's not just a frivolous counterclaim."