Nonprofits Respond to Chesapeake Energy Scrutiny With Rally of Support

  • Joe Wertz

More than 20 nonprofit organizations assembled Friday to show their support for Chesapeake Energy and CEO Aubrey McClendon.

The press conference was billed as an impromptu event and was not organized by Chesapeake. But, despite weeks of bad headlines for McClendon and the Oklahoma City natural gas giant, nonprofit leaders said they aren’t worried about the future of the company, the Journal Record’s Brianna Bailey reports.

Chesapeake gave $31 million to charitable groups and projects in its operating areas, according to the company’s 2011 annual report.  The donations were largely to education, health care and social service organizations.

Chesapeake is the largest contributor to United Way of Central Oklahoma, and the company and its employees pledged to donate $6.3 million to local United Way chapters in eight states, The Oklahoman’s Adam Wilmoth reports.

McClendon and the company’s recent scrutiny started with a report that the CEO had borrowed up to $1.1 billion in personal loans using his stake in the company’s wells as collateral. McClendon had been afforded a controversial CEO perk — now rescinded — that allowed him a stake in every well the company drilled, Reuters reported.

Last week, Chesapeake said it would replace McClendon as chairman of the board. A day later, another report surfaced that McClendon and SandRidge Energy CEO Tom Ward ran a $200 million hedge fund that traded commodities Chesapeake produced.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is informally probing, the Internal Revenue Service is examining, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, has asked the Department of Justice to investigate. Eleven shareholders groups have filed lawsuits in response to the reports, The Oklahoman reports.

Friday’s meeting was designed to demonstrate the company’s contributions to the city and state.

“It’s not just about the financial resources they contribute. It’s also about all the volunteers they provide for so many nonprofits throughout the state,” Rodney Bivens, executive director of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, tells the paper.