8. Commitments and Contingencies
|12 Months Ended
Dec. 31, 2016
|Commitments and Contingencies Disclosure [Abstract]
|Commitments and Contingencies
Operating leases: We lease the majority of our retail stores and recycling centers under noncancelable operating leases. The leases typically require the payment of taxes, maintenance, utilities and insurance.
Minimum future rental commitments under noncancelable operating leases as of December 31, 2016, are as follows:
Rent expense for fiscal years 2016 and 2015 was $4,841 and $5,300, respectively. We have agreements to receive future sublease payments of $655 through September 2019.
Contracts: We have entered into material contracts with three appliance manufacturers. Under the agreements there are no minimum purchase commitments; however, we have agreed to indemnify the manufacturers for certain claims, allegations or losses with respect to appliances we sell.
Litigation: On March 6, 2015, a complaint was filed in United States District Court for the Central District of California by Jason Feola, individually and as a representative of a putative class consisting of purchasers of the Company’s common stock between March 15, 2012 and February 11, 2015, against Appliance Recycling Centers of America, Inc. and certain current and former officers of the Company. Mr. Feola, pursuant to terms of his retainer agreement with The Rosen Law Firm, certified that he purchased 240 shares of the Company’s common stock for $984 in total consideration. On May 7, 2015, the Company and the individual defendants were served the complaint. In July 2015, the Company and the individual defendants received an amended complaint. The complaint alleges that misstatements and omissions occurred in press releases and filings by the Company with the Securities and Exchange Commission and that these misstatements or omissions constitute violations of Section 20 (a) and Section 10(b) of, and Rule 10b-5 under, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. In October 2015, the court held a hearing on the Company's motion to dismiss the complaint. On November 24, 2015, the United States District Court for the Central District of California entered an order granting the motion to dismiss the amended complaint. The Court’s order provided that the dismissal was without prejudice and that the plaintiffs may file an amended complaint within 21 days of the issuance of the order. On December 15, 2015, the Company and the individual defendants were served with a second amended complaint. In May 2016, the court held a hearing on the Company’s motion to dismiss the second amended complaint. On October 21, 2016 the court entered a final judgement to dismiss the class action complaint with prejudice.
On November 6, 2015, a complaint was filed in the Minnesota District Court for Hennepin County, Minnesota, by David Gray and Michael Boller, purporting to bring suit derivatively and on behalf of the Company against twelve current and former officers and directors of the Company. The complaint alleges that the defendants breached their fiduciary duties based on substantially similar allegations to those asserted in Mr. Feola's putative securities class action complaint, and that the defendants have been unjustly enriched as a result thereof. The complaint seeks damages, disgorgement, an award of attorneys’ fees and other expenses, and an order compelling changes to the Company’s corporate governance and internal procedures. This matter has been stayed by the court, pursuant to a stipulation of the parties, until the United States District Court for the Central District of California determines the legal sufficiency of Mr. Feola's complaint or other specified developments occur in that case. This matter has been submitted to our insurance carriers.
Given the uncertainty of litigation and the preliminary stage of these cases, we cannot reasonably estimate the possible loss or range of loss that may result from these actions. The Company maintains liability insurance policies that may reduce the Company’s exposure, if any.
In February 2012, various individuals commenced a class action lawsuit against Whirlpool Corporation (“Whirlpool”) and various distributors of Whirlpool products, including Sears, The Home Depot, Lowe’s and us, alleging certain appliances Whirlpool sold through its distribution chain, which includes us, were improperly designated with the ENERGY STAR® qualification rating established by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. The claims against us include breach of warranty claims, as well as various state consumer protection claims. The amount of the claim is, as yet, undetermined. Whirlpool has offered to fully indemnify and defend its distributors in this lawsuit, including us, and has engaged legal counsel to defend itself and the distributors. We are monitoring Whirlpool’s defense of the claims and believe the possibility of a material loss is remote.
AMTIM Capital, Inc. (“AMTIM”) acts as our representative to market our recycling services in Canada under an arrangement that pays AMTIM for revenues generated by recycling services in Canada as set forth in the agreements between the parties. A dispute has arisen between AMTIM and us with respect to the calculation of amounts due to AMTIM pursuant to the agreement. In a lawsuit filed in the province of Ontario, AMTIM claims a discrepancy in the calculation of fees due to AMTIM by us of approximately $2.0 million. Although the outcome of this claim is uncertain, we believe that no further amounts are due under the terms of the agreement and that we will continue to defend our position relative to this lawsuit.
We are party from time to time to ordinary course disputes that we do not believe to be material or have merit. We intend to vigorously defend ourselves against these ordinary course disputes.
Sales and Use Taxes: We operate in twenty-three states in the U.S. and in various provinces in Canada. From time to time, we are subject to sales and use tax audits that could result in additional taxes, penalties and interest owed to various taxing authorities.
As previously disclosed, the California Board of Equalization (“BOE”) is conducting a sales and use tax examination covering the California operations of Appliance Recycling Centers of America, Inc. (the “Company”) for 2011, 2012 and 2013. The Company believed it was exempt from collecting sales taxes under service agreements with utility customers that included appliance replacement programs. During the fourth quarter of 2014, the Company received communication from the BOE indicating they are not in agreement with the Company’s interpretation of the law. As a result, the Company applied for and, as of February 9, 2015, received approval to participate in the California Board of Equalization’s Managed Audit Program. The period covered under this program includes 2011, 2012, 2013 and extends through the nine-month period ended September 30, 2014. At this time, our best estimate of the amount that will be assessed by the BOE covering all periods under audit is approximately $4.2 million ($2.6 million net of income tax benefit) in sales tax and interest related to the appliance replacement programs that we administered on behalf of our customers on which we did not assess, collect or remit sales tax. The Company has been working with outside consultants to arrive at our assessment estimate and will continue to engage the services of these sales tax experts throughout the Managed Audit Program process. The sales tax amounts that we will likely be assessed relate to transactions in the period under examination by the BOE. Such assessment, however, will be subject to protest and appeal, and would not need to be funded until the matter has been fully resolved. Resolution could take up to two years.