Appeals court sends familiar dispute over Alamance County pawnshop


Chad Sharpe sold 25 pawn shops to a Texas company in 2015, including one on North Church Street in Burlington – he’s been paying lawyers ever since.

“Our position on this is absurd, and they are sore losers and angry that their Burlington pawnshop is not doing very well,” said Richard Pinto, Sharpe’s lawyer in Greensboro, “which is not. not Chad Sharpe’s fault. They are crazy about it and because of it, they are forcing Chad to do business across the country. “

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The lawsuits from the buyer of all of these stores, First Cash Financial Services, or FCFS, have been taken in North Carolina and Texas state and federal courts, arbitration, and now the Court of call from North Carolina, which sent him back to where it all started in Alamance County earlier this month. Pinto said the local court will likely have to decide whether FCFS can enforce non-compete and arbitration clauses against Sharpe in that state, which likely won’t be the end of it all.

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The lawyer of record representing the FCFS did not respond to the Times-News’s request for comment.

Pawn shops rely on loyal customers who get short-term loans against their valuables and buy goods at low prices. The relationships and trust between these customers and the people behind the counter go a long way in keeping them coming back.

After FCFS bought a pawnshop in Virginia and 24 in North Carolina from Sharpe for around $ 25 million, a few employees at the store he owned in Burlington, Quick Cash Pawn, left to set up their own store, Super Save Pawn, less than a mile on North Church Street. FCFS said it used company information to take many of these loyal customers with them. Pinto just said that they are better businessmen with stronger ties to the community.

It was only the first trial. FCFS sued these former employees and their pawnbroker in Alamance County Superior Court for violating the non-compete clauses they signed as employees. He lost that case in 2018. Part of that case was the allegation that these former employees had received inappropriate advice and assistance from their former boss Sharpe, who was also bound by non-compete clauses in the work agreements. purchase of assets.

Pinto said the whole lawsuit appeared to be a ruse to smear Sharpe through a discovery, which Pinto said. This did not succeed because Sharpe did not give any money or advice to these former employees, Pinto said, beyond passing on the name of an accountant or designer and saying that a list of steps and items they needed to set up their own store looked good. .

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Apparently the FCFS didn’t see it that way and in 2019 tried to force it into arbitration in Texas for breach of contract and common law fraud through negligent non-disclosure and misrepresentation.

Sharpe does not want this case to be arbitrated in Texas, and when the American Arbitration Association refused to consider his objection to the location, he brought an action in Alamance County alleging that the FCFS could not enforce. the non-compete and arbitration clauses of the sales contract, which he is not bound by those clauses, and the Alamance County Superior Court is the right place to settle the matter.

Legal disputes between parties in different states usually go through federal courts to decide which state courts and laws will decide the issue. This one was no exception. He spent part of 2019 and 2020 in North Carolina Central District U.S. District Court, which referred him to Alamance County to decide, but Pinto said he was also heard in court. federal government of Texas.

In Alamance County, FCFS asked the local court to send the case back to Texas arbitration. Alamance County Superior Court Judge Andrew Hanford dismissed the claim and agreed Sharpe did not have to go to arbitration.

First Cash has appealed. This is unusual because the North Carolina Court of Appeals typically hears final decisions, not decisions on where final decisions should be made, but the law gives little time to adjudicate on an issue like the latter, and the Court of Appeal held that Hanford made its decision without saying whether the arbitration agreement was valid and, if so, whether it applied to the present dispute. Pinto believes that means making a ruling on the validity of the non-compete and arbitration clauses, which looks a lot like something the FCFS would appeal.

For many people, bank loans are not a real option. When they need credit, they have options like payday lenders, title lenders, and pawn shops. According to Nerdwallet, pawn shops are the best of these options but still offer very expensive loans, making them profitable for the lender.

Although the parties to this lawsuit spent a lot of money in court, they have a lot of it, so this case could go from court to court for years to come.

“The facts of the case remain the same,” Pinto said, “but we never get to the facts.”

Isaac Groves is the Alamance County Government Watch Reporter for The Times-News and the USA Today Network. Call or text 919-998-8039 with tips and comments or follow him on Twitter @TNIGroves.


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