Chesapeake Shafting Landowners out of Royalties Mess Gets Messier

Corporate raider Carl Icahn is likely developing a case of heartburn over his investment in Chesapeake Energy. He’s been responsible for cutting thousands of jobs and selling off billions in assets at Chesapeake, but there is a developing situation he can’t control that will definitely affect his pocketbook. Pennsylvania’s landowners are up in arms over what they perceive to be theft of their royalty payments by Chesapeake Energy. We told you about the recent rally in Bradford County, and about Gov. Corbett and others who invited PA’s anti-drilling Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, to get involved (see Bradford PA Landowner Rally over Chesapeake Royalty Shenanigans). It’s now a royal mess and likely to get messier as time goes on.

The sorta short version of the story is this: A few years ago Chesapeake was hammered by bad press (because the media hates Aubrey McClendon, then CEO). Chessy’s stock tanked and with lots of debt, McClendon couldn’t find any more money to borrow at a reasonable rate. So McClendon invented a clever scheme to re-interpret leases that would allow Chessy to deduct certain pipeline fees from landowner royalties. The expenses would be paid to Access Midstream (spun off from Chesapeake) in return for Access giving Chessy a big, fat pile of cash/investment. The inflated pipeline fees paid to Access–now deducted from royalty checks–would generate enough revenue for Access to recoup their investment in Chessy. It was a clever way of extracting money from landowners by doing it through the intermediary of a pipeline company. At least that’s the theory spun by the anti-drilling ProPublica/Daily Beast. Is it true?…

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