Theformer owners of Chisholm Energy Partners have filed a $30 million lawsuitagainst Chesapeake Energy Corp.and SandRidge Energy Inc.,claiming that the companies collaborated to reduce prices for acreage in theAnadarko Basin in 2011.
Thelawsuit, which also claims former SandRidge CEO Tom Ward as a defendant, citesthe federal indictment against former Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon as thebasis for the case. McClendon, who was indicted March 1, died in a single-caraccident in Oklahoma City the next day.
Inits complaint, Chisholm said it acquired 7,300 acres in Harper and Sumnercounties, Kan., and 21,320 acres in Kingman County, Kan., starting in 2010. Asinterest in the unconventional plays of the Anadarko Basin began to pick up in2011, the partnership said it began to receive interest from multiple parties,including Chesapeake, SandRidge and RoyalDutch Shell plc.
"Asnegotiations progressed, the main competitors for the Kansas LeaseholdInterests became Chesapeake and SandRidge, whose competing bids caused theprice to increase. Then, without any forewarning or explanation, SandRidgesuddenly ceased communications with Chisholm about its Kansas LeaseholdInterests," the lawsuit states.
Chisholmwould eventually be bought out entirely by Chesapeake in December 2011 afterthe company paid approximately $500 an acre for Chisholm's holdings. Elsewhere inthe region, the suit claims, property was selling for $1,000 an acre or more.
"Chesapeakealong with the Defendants and SandRidge, between them, illegally 'divided up'the geographic area covering the Anadarko Basin Region in Kansas, and other,states, and agreed not to compete and drive up prices for leasehold interestsin each other's assigned area," the suit claims. "The value of thePlaintiffs' Kansas Leasehold Interests would have been greatly in excess of theprice of $500 per acre paid by Chesapeake."
Theplaintiffs said they did not know about the alleged arrangement until McClendon'sindictment in March and could not have known through reasonable due diligence.
"[Chisholm]did not know that the reason for the withdrawal of bidders other than Chesapeakefor the mineral interests at issue was due to a conspiracy to acquire thoseinterests at depressed prices," the lawsuit states.
Theplaintiffs are seeking treble damages to the $10 million they believe they wereshorted as a result of the conspiracy under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
NeitherSandRidge or Chesapeake immediately returned messages requesting comment on thelawsuit.