OKLAHOMA CITY - The death of a well-known energy CEO comes less than a day after a federal grand jury indictment.
Aubrey McClendon, the former CEO of Chesapeake, was accused of conspiring with other oil companies to rig bids for oil and gas leases in order to keep his company's costs low.
There are many in the community who said people should wait to pass judgement.
“It’s a partnership. It needs to be a win-win,” said Bryce Everett, Allied Mineral Management.
Everett said it is a crucial component between land owners and oil companies.
It’s his job to make sure that happens.
“I work on behalf of landowners, and so I assist them with their deals and help broker the deal," he said.
When news that McClendon was under indictment for bid rigging, he said he was shocked.
“For them to bring an indictment, to say he was doing something to keep the prices down, everywhere he went he drove the prices up,” he said.
The seven-page indictment alleges that McClendon conspired with his competition in the drilling industry, possibly cutting landowners out of millions of dollars.
As someone close to landowners, that’s a hard sell for Everett.
“Aubrey McClendon, I can’t think of anyone who has brought more money into rural areas than Aubrey and Chesapeake. He would go out and put a bid in by the county and just buy it,” he said.
According to the Justice Department, McClendon’s indictment is just the first case in an ongoing federal investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anti-competitive conduct in the oil and natural gas industry.
Each violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
McClendon was expected to face multiple charges.
This isn't the first time McClendon has been investigated for alleged bid-rigging.
Last year, Chesapeake agreed to a $25 million settlement with the state of Michigan over bid-rigging, although the Justice Department closed its investigation there without indictment.
The recent charges are still hard to believe about a man many admired and respected.
“I can tell you that a huge amount of money was brought into the state because of the effort he had and the vision he had,” Everett said.
Chesapeake released the following statement after the indictment was handed down:
“Chesapeake has been actively cooperating for some time with a criminal antitrust investigation by the Department of Justice regarding past land leasing practices and has received conditional leniency under the Antitrust Division’s Leniency Program. Chesapeake does not expect to face criminal prosecution or fines relating to this matter. Chesapeake has taken significant steps to address legacy issues and enhance legal and regulatory compliance throughout the organization.” – Gordon Pennoyer
McClendon retired from Chesapeake in 2013.
McClendon responded to the indictment late Tuesday evening:
“The charge that has been filed against me today is wrong and unprecedented. I have been singled out as the only person in the oil and gas industry in over 110 years since the Sherman Act became law to have been accused of this crime in relation to joint bidding on leasehold. Anyone who knows me, my business record and the industry in which I have worked for 35 years, knows that I could not be guilty of violating any antitrust laws. All my life I have worked to create jobs in Oklahoma, grow its economy, and to provide abundant and affordable energy to all Americans. I am proud of my track record in this industry, and I will fight to prove my innocence and to clear my name.” – Aubrey McClendon