Proposal would settle Chesapeake lawsuit for $6.95 million

A proposed $6.95 million settlement has been filed to end a class-action lawsuit alleging Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy co-founders Aubrey McClendon and Tom Ward conspired to rig bids on leases for land to explore for oil and natural gas in northwestern Oklahoma and southwestern Kansas.

The proposal filed late Wednesday in federal court calls for thousands of people in Oklahoma and Kansas to share in the settlement proceeds, and said it comes after two mediation sessions conducted earlier this year by a retired federal judge in Oklahoma City.

"By reaching a favorable settlement at this time, Plaintiffs seek to avoid significant expense and delay, and instead ensure a favorable recovery for the class as soon as possible, and without the need to incur millions of litigation expense and the uncertainty of a better recovery down the road," according to the proposal.

McClendon, a part-owner of the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder, left Chesapeake in 2013 over differences with the company's board of directors and died when the vehicle he was driving crashed into a concrete bridge embankment at nearly 89 mph in March 2016. His death occurred a day after he was indicted by a grand jury on bid-rigging allegations related to the lawsuit and a day before the lawsuit was filed.

Ward, who left Chesapeake in 2006 and later formed now-bankrupt Sandridge Energy, denied the conspiracy allegation.

"Mr. Ward denies that any such communications (with McClendon) related to those purchases violated the antitrust laws in any way," the proposed settlement said.

The lawsuit alleges McClendon and Ward conspired from 2007 to 2012 for Chesapeake and Sandridge to not bid against each other in order to suppress prices for leases and royalties.

An attorney for Ward and a spokesman for Chesapeake did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the proposed settlement.

The filing said a claims administrator will attempt to contact those with claims in the case via mail, in newspaper advertisements and in news releases in Kansas and Oklahoma, and that the proposal will be available on the website .

Online court records do not indicate when a hearing might be held to consider the proposed settlement.