Chesapeake Energy Corp. representatives on Friday asked a Michigan judge to dismiss charges against the company, saying the state “has not shown this court any evidence whatsoever to support a finding of probable cause.”
The Oklahoma City-based oil and natural gas producer is facing state charges in Michigan that it conspired with Canadian oil company Encana Corp. to hold down lease prices in the state. Both companies have denied wrongdoing after clearing themselves in internal investigations.
“The state has not presented any evidence of an agreement or mutual understanding — whether implicit, explicit, in writing or orally,” Chesapeake said in Friday’s court filing. “No witnesses testified that an agreement existed. The only evidence that the state can point to is a select group of documents in the case, but the documents taken as a whole make abundantly clear that no agreement was reached.”
Chesapeake and Encana were charged March 4 with two misdemeanor counts of antitrust violations. The more serious charge carries up to a $1 million fine for corporations.
Chesapeake has said it and Encana had considered a joint venture, but decided against it. Chesapeake also has argued that lease prices and competition for leases dropped because it became clear the Michigan geology was not as good as the companies had hoped.
Prosecutors claim executives from the two companies conspired in a series of emails to divide up oil and gas leases in Michigan, according to the charges. The emails, made public in 2012 by Reuters, included discussions between the companies’ executives about an arrangement to split up Michigan counties so that each company would be an exclusive bidder for public and private leases.