OKLAHOMA CITY – Aubrey McClendon, the former chief executive of Chesapeake Energy Corp., was indicted Tuesday for conspiring to rig bids to buy oil and natural gas leases in northwest Oklahoma.
The Department of Justice said in a statement that McClendon is suspected of orchestrating the scheme between two large energy companies from December 2007 to March 2012. The companies would decide ahead of time who would win bids, with the winner then allocating an interest in the leases to the other company, according to the statement.
The indictment, which does not name the companies involved in the scheme McClendon is alleged to have orchestrated, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.
Leasehold interests usually include the right to develop the land and to extract oil and natural gas for a period of time, typically three to five years.
Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake said it is cooperating with the investigation.
"Chesapeake does not expect to face criminal prosecution or fines relating to this matter," company spokesman Gordon Pennoyer said in a statement. "Chesapeake has taken significant steps to address legacy issues and enhance legal and regulatory compliance throughout the organization."
Federal court records do not indicate which attorney is representing McClendon in the case. After-hours messages left Tuesday with attorneys who represented McClendon in some three dozen other lawsuits filed against him in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City were not immediately returned.
However, attorney Drew Neville told The Oklahoman newspaper, McClendon "absolutely denies wrongdoing. Absolutely."
McClendon, part-owner of the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder, stepped down in 2013 at Chesapeake and founded American Energy Partners, where he currently serves as chairman and chief executive officer.