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The man who pioneered America’s shale gas revolution just got indicted on antitrust charges

Aubrey McClendon, co-founder of Chesapeake Energy Corp., is pictured during a 2005 interview.
AP Photo
The natural gas bubble’s burst continues to haunt Aubrey McClendon.
By Melvin Backman
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Bankruptcy court isn’t the only legal venue seeing some action in the commodities bust.

Former Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon, who spearheading a wave of shale gas drilling in the western US, has been indicted on federal antitrust charges. The US Justice Department alleged in a statement released Tuesday that between 2007 and 2012 McClendon had “orchestrated a conspiracy between two large oil and gas companies to not bid against each other for the purchase of certain oil and natural gas leases in northwest Oklahoma.”

McClendon released a statement saying that ”[t]he charge that has been filed against me today is wrong and unprecedented.”

Under his leadership, Chesapeake rode the shale gas revolution to considerable success. But things weren’t so rosy by 2012, when things fell apart because McClendon was discovered to have borrowed more than $1 billion against shares in the company’s wells. Eventually the board parted company with him, and he went on to found his own natural gas startup, American Energy Partners.

Chesapeake itself released a statement today distancing itself from him, and said it was cooperating with the investigation against its former CEO:

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.

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