CHESAPEAKE Energy's growth since its founding in 1989, the 100th anniversary of Oklahoma City, has been breathtaking. The rush to judgment about Chesapeake's current status is breathtaking as well.
We urge readers to take a deep breath and then take stock of what all this company and its management have contributed to this city.
We come here today not to praise Chesapeake or to bury any criticism of the company. Shareholders own the company. A board of directors and executives run it. They will determine the company's future course and leadership.
While we relish in Chesapeake's triumphs and contributions, others seem to relish in the problems that the company and its CEO find themselves in. Business journalists have reported on Chesapeake's problems — its growing debt, its plunging stock prices, its “insider” dealings with CEO Aubrey McClendon. Some of the reporting has degenerated into the trivial but most has been serious and complex.
Involved are McClendon's compensation, loans made to the CEO, his political influence, etc. The names of Enron and WorldCom have been put in a mixing bowl with a dash of Chesapeake/McClendon thrown in for flavoring.
This is unfair. No evidence has been offered that the company and McClendon have done anything illegal, as was true of Enron. Or that accounting practices have been fraudulent, as was true of WorldCom. Shareholders suing Chesapeake will make claims regarding conflicts of interest and mismanagement, but this isn't the same as criminal activity.
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