Prosecutors in Oklahoma are dropping charges against Aubrey McClendon for his alleged role in a bid rigging conspiracy, following his untimely death Wednesday. However, an ongoing federal investigation continues into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the oil and natural gas industry, officials said.
The motion to dismiss the charge against the natural gas industry icon, 56, was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, one day after he was killed in a one-vehicle crash in Oklahoma City (see Shale Daily, March 2a; March 2b).
Dismissing the action “would best meet the ends of justice in that the defendant is now deceased,” the filing by the Department of Justice’s Chicago-based Antitrust Division said.
A Justice spokesperson said the federal investigation of antitrust conduct in the industry, which has been ongoing for about four years, would continue.
The indictment against McClendon said he had orchestrated a conspiracy between March 2007 and March 2012 when he was CEO of Chesapeake Energy Corp. The conspiracy charge alleged that he and another “large” oil and gas company agreed not to bid against each other to purchase the leases in northwestern Oklahoma. The other company has been tentatively identified as SandRidge Energy Co., which at the time of the alleged scheme was run by Chesapeake co-founder Tom Ward.
The indictment also said “various corporations and individuals, not made defendants in this indictment, participated as co-conspirators in the offense charged…and performed acts and made statements in furtherance thereof.”
Meanwhile, Oklahoma City police said the investigation into McClendon’s accident could take up to two weeks. An autopsy also is being conducted, which could take up to four months.
Hundreds of tributes were pouring in about the man many called a visionary entrepreneur in the oil and gas industry and a civic icon for Oklahoma City as his fellow Oklahomans made preparations for a memorial service (see related story).
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