Attorneys representing a group of landowners who leased their interests in oil, gas, and minerals to Samson Resources, have asked the Office of the United States Trustee to appoint a special statutory committee to represent the interests of all 50,000–75,000 landowners that have contractual relationships with the now-bankrupt company.
Central to the formation of the Landowners’ Committee would be the efficient evaluation and resolution of certain allegations made by landowners against Samson. The allegations include the contention that Samson has improper monthly deductions from landowner accounts and a lack of transparency with respect to royalty deductions and computations. Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Samson Resources, an oil and gas exploration company, filed one of the largest US energy bankruptcies of 2015 when it requested Chapter 11 protection last September.
In making the request on behalf of a group of landowners, Scott Gautier, a partner at Robins Kaplan LLP, noted that a Landowners’ Committee, separate from the statutory committee representing the interests of general unsecured creditors is appropriate, given the distinct nature of the landowner-creditor claims.
“Not only are the claims of the landowners unique from those of general unsecured creditors, but most of the landowners, taken individually, lack both the resources and understanding of the bankruptcy process and the nature of the claims they may have against the Estate,” Gautier said. “The absence of such a committee will likely result in a lack of participation, or worse, misrepresentation of the claims and interests of the collective group of landowner creditors.”
The Samson Resources case marks the second time in less than a year that Robins Kaplan has petitioned the Office of the United States Trustee to appoint a special committee to protect the rights of an important but disenfranchised group in a bankruptcy proceeding. In May 2015, the firm had a special student committee appointed to represent the interests of an estimated 500,000 students with $25 billion in claims against Corinthian Colleges, at the time one of the nation’s largest for-profit college systems.
In separate matters, Robins Kaplan currently represents clients in Montana and North Dakota with respect to claims arising from contractual obligations to share profits and fairly and properly allocate expenses associated with oil drilling operations. The firm’s clients are the owners of mineral rights across oil fields in Montana and North Dakota. The firm’s Los Angeles and Bismarck, North Dakota, offices, along with The Edwards Law Firm of Billings, Montana, are pursuing both contractual and non-contractual rights on behalf of their clients.