Less than 24 hours after Aubrey McClendon was charged with conspiracy, he died in a car crash.
On Tuesday, March 1, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that McClendon, an Oklahoma wildcatter who stimulated the shale revolution by buying up gas fields across the U.S. was said to have orchestrated a conspiracy in which two oil and gas companies colluded to not bid against each other for the purchase of several leases in Oklahoma from 2007 to 2012.
According to a statement by the DOJ, “During this conspiracy, which ran from December 2007 to March 2012, the conspirators would decide ahead of time who would win the leases. The winning bidder would then allocate an interest in the leases to the other company. McClendon instructed his subordinates to execute the conspiratorial agreement, which included, among other things, withdrawing bids for certain leases and agreeing on the allocation of interests in the leases between the conspiring companies.”
The charges in the indictment are allegations and not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
McClendon issued a statement following the indictment:
“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.”
This was the first case resulting from an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the oil and natural gas industry.
On Wednesday morning, firefighters were called to a car accident in Oklahoma City. The vehicle hit a bridge on Midwest Blvd., between Memorial and 122nd St. Police have confirmed during a press conference that McClendon died as a result of that accident. The vehicle was said to be traveling at a high rate of speed. Engulfed in flames immediately upon impact, the vehicle was badly burned. Police are still investigating the exact cause of the single-car crash.
“It appeared he drove straight into the wall,” said Capt. Paco Balderrama of the OKC Police Department.
American Energy Partners released the following statement: “We will deeply mourn his loss, please join us in expressing our condolences to his family.”
McClendon was 56, retired from Chesapeake in 2013. He co-founded Chesapeake with oilman Tom Ward in 1989. He was once among the highest paid CEOs in the U.S. McClendon founded American Energy Partners in 2013. He was also a partial owner of the Oklahoma City Thunder.