May 5, 2014 / 4:18 PM / 4 years ago

Encana to pay $5 million civil fine in Michigan antitrust case

Cheboygan, Michigan, May 5 (Reuters) - Lawyers for Encana Corp pleaded no contest on Monday to charges the company attempted to commit antitrust violations in Michigan during 2010 and agreed to pay a $5 million civil fine at a court hearing.

After agreeing to the fine, Michigan’s Attorney General dismissed a second criminal charge that Encana committed antitrust violations in the state.

The state of Michigan has alleged Chesapeake Energy Corp conspired with Encana to keep oil and gas land lease prices artificially low during a 2010 leasing boom. An attorney for Chesapeake indicated at a probable cause hearing in Cheboygan that the company intended to continue to fight the Michigan charges.

Encana’s no contest plea and the fine came after both companies conducted internal investigations they said showed the companies did not collude in the state.

A series of emails and communications between executives of the two companies that were competing for land leases in Michigan’s Collingwood Shale area during a speculative boom in 2010 showed they had discussed bidding strategies to acquire leases, Reuters reported in 2012.

The companies said earlier they discussed forming a joint venture in Michigan in 2010, but did not reach any agreement. (Reporting by Brian Grow in Cheboygan; Writing by Joshua Schneyer in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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