As controversy swirls, Chesapeake Energy picks new lawyer, Webb

Fri Sep 21, 2012 9:09am EDT

(Reuters) - Chesapeake Energy Corp (CHK.N) has hired James Webb as its new, full-time legal counsel as it tries to recover from damaging reports about controversial land deals in Michigan and personal loans taken out by its chief executive.

Webb, who has worked on a contract basis for the company for the past four months, will be Chesapeake's legal and general counsel, the second-largest U.S. natural gas producer said in a statement Friday.

He replaces Henry Hood, who held the position from April 2006 through June 2012.

Hood will remain Chesapeake's senior vice president, land and legal.

A Reuters report in June showed Chesapeake and Encana Corp (ECA.TO) had colluded in 2010 to avoid bidding against each other in Michigan land deals.

That report triggered an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into possible criminal antitrust violations.

The company has also come under intense scrutiny after Reuters reported in April that Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon had borrowed as much as $1.1 billion over the last three years by pledging his stake in the company's oil and natural gas wells as collateral.

Hood had defended McClendon and Chesapeake after initial reports of the loan, saying there was no conflict of interest.

Webb has worked for 17 years at the Oklahoma law firm McAfee & Taft.

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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