Chesapeake Energy Corp. is facing a formal investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the company confirmed Friday in a regulatory filing.
The SEC's Fort Worth, Texas, office initiated an informal inquiry of the Oklahoma City oil and natural gas company last year after Reuters reported on more than $1 billion in personal loans secured by CEO Aubrey McClendon, using his personal stake in Chesapeake wells as collateral.
The company has since said it would discontinue the Founder Well Participation Program, which allowed McClendon to take a 2.5 percent stake in each well the company drilled.
Chesapeake, which had been cooperating with the SEC, was notified Dec. 21 that the inquiry would continue as an investigation. The SEC has issued subpoenas for information and testimony.
“The company, including Mr. McClendon, is providing information to the SEC in connection with this matter,” according to Friday's filing. “The company is also responding to related inquiries from other governmental and regulatory agencies and self-regulatory organizations.”
Chesapeake's board, which was revamped last year amid shareholder unrest, announced last week that its review of McClendon's finances revealed no sign of intentional misconduct.
McClendon is leaving the company by April 1, but the board has said his departure has nothing to do with its review.
McClendon is due a payout of close to $50 million when he leaves the company he co-founded in 1989 with former partner Tom Ward, but shareholder Stephen Cheseldine has asked an Oklahoma County judge to block any severance-related payments.
There is a hearing scheduled for March 29 on that request, according to a report filed Friday.
Cheseldine is one of more than a dozen shareholders who have filed breach of fiduciary duty lawsuits against the company's board.
Chesapeake also provided an update on its buyout program in Friday's filing. The company offered buyouts to about 275 veteran employees in December; 213 have accepted, costing Chesapeake about $64 million.
Chesapeake's stock dipped 49 cents Friday to $19.67 a share.