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Former Cheniere CEO Souki denies wrongdoing in forming rival LNG company

Former Cheniere Energy Inc. Chairman and CEO Charif Souki issued a blanket denial of allegations that he wrongly used projects he worked with at Cheniere to benefit him when he started up a rival LNG company.

Cheniere, in a lawsuit filed in February, accused Souki of scheming to finance a proposed joint development that led to the rival LNG startup Tellurian Inc., which Souki co-founded after his removal.

Souki issued a general denial March 20 through his attorneys, his first response to the lawsuit filed Feb. 15 in Harris County, Texas. Souki's response states he "denies each and every, all and singular, of the allegations."

The civil lawsuit came after a long-running legal dispute related to LNG projects in Louisiana proposed by Cheniere and Parallax Enterprises, a former business partner of Cheniere that was a predecessor entity to Tellurian.

The previous case, also ongoing in Harris County, Texas, involves multiple claims and counterclaims stretching back to 2016. Souki was pushed out at Cheniere in late 2015 following disagreements over expansion plans that included the Parallax projects. A trial in that case is scheduled for June.

Cheniere has alleged that Tellurian misappropriated liquefaction business opportunities Cheniere was developing with Parallax. Tellurian and Parallax parties have denied the charges. Cheniere said Parallax benefited from a $46 million loan Cheniere made in 2015 to develop the projects on Souki's recommendation. Parallax has disputed that the $46 million payment was a loan.

In the latest case, Cheniere also accused Souki of misconduct when he was still a director of Cheniere, saying he "owed continuing fiduciary duties" to Cheniere during the alleged scheme. (55th District Court of Harris County, Texas, Cause No. 2019-11529)

In regulatory filings, Tellurian and Cheniere have said they do not anticipate the litigation to have a material impact on their financial results. Tellurian CEO Meg Gentle said in a March 11 interview that the legal dispute "has not soured anything with investors or buyers" as Tellurian targets a final investment decision in the first half for its proposed Driftwood LNG export terminal in Louisiana.