May 8, 2015 / 12:07 AM / in 2 years

UPDATE 2-SandRidge is target of antitrust grand jury probe -filing

(Adds statement from Chesapeake)

By Anna Driver and Joshua Schneyer

HOUSTON/NEW YORK May 7 (Reuters) - SandRidge Energy Inc is the target of a federal grand jury probe concerning violations of antitrust law related to the leasing of oil and gas properties, the company said in a regulatory filing on Thursday.

The Oklahoma City, Oklahoma-based company said the transactions subject to the government’s inquiry date from 2012 and prior years, according to the filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

”We are taking the matter very seriously and continue to work with the DOJ in the course of the investigation, Jeff Wilson, a vice president of government and public affairs at SandRidge, said.

SandRidge was told on April 7 by the U.S. Department of Justice that it is a target of an Oklahoma grand jury, the filing said.

SandRidge former chief executive officer Tom Ward was ousted by the company’s board in January 2013 after the company’s biggest investors alleged governance lapses and strategic missteps.

Aubrey McClendon, who co-founded Chesapeake Energy with Ward in 1989, is also under investigation by the DOJ for potential violations related to leasing oil and gas properties, according to a regulatory filing last month from a McClendon-affiliated firm.

McClendon, now CEO of American Energy Partners, did not immediately respond to emailed questions. Ward did not respond to a telephone message requesting comment.

Chesapeake previously disclosed it is cooperating with a probe into possible antitrust violations. It is not clear if the investigations are related. A DOJ spokesperson declined to comment.

“Chesapeake has been cooperating for some time with a criminal antitrust investigation by the Department of Justice regarding past land-lease practices by prior management,” Chesapeake spokesman Gordon Pennoyer said. “The company does not expect to be a target of the investigation or prosecution.”

The DOJ said in 2012 it was investigating potential antitrust violations related to oil and gas land leasing. Among the companies subject to the probe were Chesapeake and Canada’s Encana Corp..

The two had been involved in land leasing in Michigan in 2010, and Reuters reported they had communicated with each other on ways to suppress land lease prices in the state during a leasing boom. (reut.rs/1ieHE8D)

Both companies denied wrongdoing and were told last year the DOJ had ended its probe into their leasing activities in Michigan.

Although the DOJ closed its investigation in Michigan, its antitrust division previously said the investigation was continuing in other regions, without citing which companies remained subject to the probe.

Reporting by Anna Driver; Editing by Terry Wade, Diane Craft and Leslie Adler

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