Playing ball 

Why is this tale in our head these days? Chicken-Fried News thinks that Croatian man might have been Chesapeake Energy, with that beach chair actually a news agency called Reuters.

Shortly after the Oklahoma City-based energy giant named a new board chairman and four new shareholder-selected board members — changes in corporate governance spurred by inflammatory Reuters reports of former board chairman and still-CEO Aubrey McClendon — Reuters let loose with another potentially damaging story.

Reuters revealed last week that it had obtained internal Chesapeake emails from McClendon and other corporate execs indicating that the company and one of its Canadian rivals — Encana Corp. — worked to avoid bidding against each other in public land auctions in oil and gas plays, as well as in bidding for land owned by private individuals.

The alleged collusion essentially drove down the price of land in Michigan, according to Reuters.

Reuters reported that a June 16, 2010, email from McClendon stated that the two companies should “smoke the peace pipe” if indeed they were “bidding each other up.” That correspondence could be “government exhibit No. 1” in a future antitrust case, a former U.S. Justice Department antitrust attorney told the news agency.

While previous Reuters stories have mainly involved possible conflicts of interest involving McClendon and Chesapeake, this is the first to suggest illegal activity. A Chesapeake spokesman has said the companies had explored a joint venture, but that it didn’t materialize.

In light of the massive impact Chesapeake has on the economies of Oklahoma City and Oklahoma, our not-so-expert advice: Fasten your seat belts. It could be bumpy from here on out.

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