CHEBOYGAN, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said Wednesday that he has filed criminal charges against Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Encana Corp., accusing them of colluding to avoid bidding against each other for Michigan oil and gas leases.
Schuette said the antitrust violations happened in 2010, when Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake and Calgary, Alberta-based Encana bought natural gas leases in Michigan.
"I will aggressively prosecute any company who conspires to break the law," he said.
In a statement, the attorney general's office said it suspects collusion was responsible for a steep drop in the price of drilling rights auctions in Michigan.
"In the five-month period following the state's May 2010 auction, this alleged conspiracy may have been a key driver behind the state-held lease price in Michigan going from $1,510 per acre in May 2010 to less than $40 an acre at the October 2010 auction," Schuette's office said.
An arraignment is scheduled March 19 in Cheboygan County District Court in Cheboygan for representatives of the two companies. The charges carry a penalty of up to two years' imprisonment for individuals and a fine of up to $1 million for corporations.
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