SandRidge investor asks board to investigate CEO Ward

Thu Jan 17, 2013 10:44am EST
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(Reuters) - A top SandRidge Energy Inc (SD.N: Quote) investor called on the company's board to investigate allegations that Chief Executive Tom Ward and a company run by his son engaged in "persistent front running of the company."

Mount Kellett Capital, which holds about 4.5 percent in SandRidge, said in a letter on Thursday that it was reviewing allegations by another investor, TPG-Axon, that Ward and his son acquired mineral rights and sold them to SandRidge or other oil and gas companies at a profit.

It said the company's board should hire an independent law firm and a forensic law firm to look into the allegations, and that Ward should be suspended until completion of the probe.

WCT Resources - an Oklahoma company owned by trusts benefiting Ward's three adult children and run by his son, Trent - is a business partner with SandRidge, according to SEC filings.

The company has paid WCT nearly $5 million since 2008 to lease property controlled by WCT in northern Oklahoma and for royalties on wells operated by SandRidge on the land, according to an analysis of SEC filings.

Mount Kellett COO Jonathan Fiorella said in the letter that it would "seem reasonable to infer ... that WCT leveraged SandRidge's and Mr. Ward's knowledge of the Mississippian play, at the expense of SandRidge shareholders, to acquire properties at a time when the play was just emerging."

SandRidge is the largest operator and was one of the earliest companies to acquire acreage in the Mississippian - a rock formation that spans northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas. WCT has also acquired land in the region.

Hedge fund TPG-Axon Capital and Mount Kellett have been pressing to replace Ward and the board and to put the company up for sale.

SandRidge could not be immediately reached for comment. The company, which has been searching for a strategy to improve returns, has come under fire from investors because its shares have underperformed peers.   Continued...