Chesapeake board clears McClendon of 'intentional' wrongdoing

An independent investigation of Aubrey McClendon initiated by Chesapeake Energy Corp. absolved the CEO of any “intentional” wrongdoing.

McClendon, Trinity ‘81, was accused of unethical business practices last Spring. The allegations stemmed from Reuters reports noting that McClendon borrowed against his stake in the company’s oil and gas reserves. The news led to internal, state and federal investigations. The internal review, conducted by Locke Lord Bissell and Liddell LLP law firm, spanned 10 months and concluded Wednesday. McClendon will step down as CEO April 1, citing “certain philosophical differences” with the company’s board of directors.

“The review of the financing arrangements did not reveal any improper benefit to Mr. McClendon or increased cost to the company as a result of the overlap in the financial relationships,” the company said in a statement.

The aim of the review was to investigate McClendon’s use of minority stakes in Chesapeake-owned wells as collateral for his personal loans. Additionally, the investigation found that McClendon did not violate antitrust laws when Chesapeake acquired rights to drilling a shale formation in Michigan.

According to Chesapeake’s statement, the review process included more than 50 interviews with executives from Chesapeake and other companies, but the company did not release a full report of its investigation.

Although the internal review is over, investigations by the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are ongoing to examine McClendon’s financial transactions and possible antitrust violations.

Some analysts said Wednesday that the outcome of the Chesapeake investigation does not necessarily reflect what federal and state probes will find.

“A finding of ‘no intentional misconduct’ still does not mean there was no misconduct,” Mark Hanson, an oil and gas analyst at Morningstar Inc. told Reuters. “I think just the appearance of impropriety should be avoided, and I think that certainly wasn’t the case for either McClendon or the former board.”

To date, he and his wife, Katie, Trinity’80, have donated approximately $16 million to Duke. Their contributions have funded the Bryan Center Plaza and McClendon Tower.

McClendon is also on the Duke Forward Campaign Steering Committee, a group of 22 alumni charged with leading Duke’s goal of obtaining $3.25 billion in contributions by June 2017.


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