Energy. Environment. Economy.

Former Chesapeake Energy CEO dies in crash, one day after indictment

Former Chesapeake Energy CEO and co-founder Aubrey McClendon is facing federal conspiracy charges.

Scott Detrow/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Former Chesapeake Energy CEO and co-founder Aubrey McClendon died in a car wreck Wednesday, less than a day after he was charged with conspiracy.

The former CEO and co-founder of Chesapeake Energy, Aubrey McClendon, died in a one-vehicle crash Wednesday, less than 24 hours after he had been charged with conspiracy following a federal investigation. According to Oklahoma City police, McClendon, 56, was traveling at a high rate of speed when his SUV hit an embankment of a highway overpass Wednesday morning.

From NPR:

A police spokesman said at a news conference Wednesday that McClendon’s car was traveling at a high rate of speed when it collided with an overpass wall and “was engulfed in flames.” The spokesman said no one else was in the car and that police were not initially able to determine whether McClendon was wearing a seatbelt.

In an indictment announced Tuesday the Justice Department accused McClendon of orchestrating a conspiracy between two large, unnamed oil and gas companies to not bid against each other for leases in northwest Oklahoma between 2007 and 2012.

McClendon is often credited with being a pioneer of fracking and leading Chesapeake Energy into the shale gas revolution ahead of many other major companies. Until recently it has been one of the largest and most active drillers in the Marcellus Shale.

“While serving as CEO of a major oil and gas company, the defendant formed and led a conspiracy to suppress prices paid to leaseholders in northwest Oklahoma,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division in a statement Tuesday. “His actions put company profits ahead of the interests of leaseholders entitled to competitive bids for oil and gas rights on their land.  Executives who abuse their positions as leaders of major corporations to organize criminal activity must be held accountable for their actions.”

As StateImpact Pennsylvania has previously reported, Chesapeake has faced a slew of lawsuits here in the wake of its financial troubles. McClendon left Chesapeake in 2013 and served as head of American Energy Partners. He was charged with violating the Sherman Antitrust Act.

“I have been singled out as the only person in the oil and gas industry in over 110 years since the Sherman Act became law to have been accused of this crime in relation to joint bidding on leasehold,” McClendon said in a statement following the charges. “Anyone who knows me, my business record and the industry in which I have worked for 35 years, knows that I could not be guilty of violating any antitrust laws. I am proud of my track record in this industry, and I will fight to prove my innocence and to clear my name.”

The Justice Department says the indictment is part of an ongoing antitrust investigation “into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the oil and natural gas industry.”

Cheseapeake spokesman Gordon Pennoyer said the company does not expect to face any criminal prosecution or fines related to McClendon’s indictment.

“Chesapeake has been actively cooperating for some time with a criminal antitrust investigation by the Department of Justice regarding past land leasing practices and has received conditional leniency under the Antitrust Division’s Leniency Program,” Pennoyer said in an email. “Chesapeake has taken significant steps to address legacy issues and enhance legal and regulatory compliance throughout the organization.”

Note: This story has been updated with information about McClendon’s death


  • Greg Greenfield

    His wrecked SUV is emblematic of the mess he left for the rest of us to clean up.

  • Strickland

    and at stateimpact, i’d imagine a celebration.

    • Greg Greenfield

      The only celebration on display was being held by Chesapeake investors, who bid the stock up 26% today on no noticeable news other than that they expect the company to now escape criminal prosecution.
      Of course it’s still down 87% over the last five years as the Ponzi scheme collapses, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

      • konan

        And the DOJ decided to reward their despicable behavior of cheating hardworking middle class American property owners out of royalty payments by promising leniency ?? Theft is theft. If you want the behavior to stop, the penalty must be harsh, not the usual slap on the wrist.

  • crystalpoint

    God Bless Aubrey McClendon and his sole, may he rest in piece, lets hop this indictment has ended this case. Competition by other oil companies, is good for business!


    • Greg Greenfield

      Pope Francis issued an encyclical last year in which he wrote “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental,
      social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents
      one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.” He also wrote “We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels—especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas—needs to be progressively replaced without delay.”

      More recently, in a speech he gave at the United Nations, Pope Francis said “The misuse and destruction of the environment are also
      accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and
      boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because…they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action. Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment.”

      When drillers and pipeline companies propose to seize the private property of hardworking Pennsylvanians for the purpose of exporting fossil
      fuels overseas for corporate profit, aren’t they committing the exact “grave
      offense against human rights and the environment” of which Pope Francis warned?

      • FrackmanGasser

        And what about the Pope, who advocates for the communistic redistribution of wealth to those who probably don’t deserve it? What about Andy Cuomo, who conspired with the lying fractivists to steal my mineral rights – where is the Pope on this? Some good Catholic Andy is – divorce, living in sin, stealing from the middle class. Yeah, a real poster child for losers.

        • Greg Greenfield

          Since you replied to me, any chance you might address my point?

      • crystalpoint

        Lets keep the “Pope” the hell out of the environmental business! The Pope, has enough to do to keep his “flock” strait! Frankly, if he read the bible, and believes in “Gods: word, and science, he would know that, for million’s of years there were many times that, the climate has changed on its own and not caused by “Man”! Man, and its machines, need power to run them with. What does the “Popes” airplane, and his Pope mobile run on!

        Finally, Dear Pope, God has stated in his word that, the “end” is coming, and in my opinion,is very near!!! Man, and the world does not have trillions of dollars to throw away on a fraud! Stick to the job you are suited to do! Stay away from those who preach this doctrine, i.e. man made climate change!

        Sincerely, Ray P. Smith, in God we trust!

        • Greg Greenfield

          Ray, that was completely incomprehensible. But thanks for playing–we have some nice parting gifts for you.

  • konan

    Chesapeake and Williams Partners stock up on the news??? I guess the old adage “Dead men tell no tales” is positive news for the industry ? The middle class American property owners who have sacrificed for years to own what they own need protected by the DOJ from these viperous behaviors if they are ever to be treated with the respect they’ve earned.

  • konan

    The is never enough money for some people. The millions or billions already in their bank acc’ts doesn’t seem to be enough to satiate their greed. defrauding churches too ? RICO action filed.


    I hope it was a slow painful death.

  • Greg Greenfield

    There will always be con artists who will seek to cheat and defraud others in order to enrich themselves. And to befoul the planet in the process, in the particular case of oil-and-gas con artists. Here’s to moving towards a system of laws that, to the greatest extent possible, prevents these particular kinds of crimes from being committed.

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