UPDATE 1-SandRidge subpoenaed in antitrust inquiry on natgas rights -filing

Fri Feb 28, 2014 4:33pm EST

Feb 28 (Reuters) - SandRidge Energy Inc said on Friday it was subpoenaed by the U.S. Department of Justice, which is investigating whether antitrust laws were violated in the buying and leasing of mineral rights.

In June, SandRidge's board removed the U.S. oil and gas company's founder and chief executive, Tom Ward, after a struggle with activist investors who accused him of self-dealing at the expense of shareholders and of making strategic mistakes.

In December, SandRidge received an order from federal authorities "in connection with an ongoing investigation of possible violations of antitrust laws in connection with the purchase or lease of land, oil or natural gas rights," SandRidge said in its annual filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, company is cooperating with the government's anti-trust probe and did not say whether it was the target of the inquiry.

A spokesman for the company was not immediately available to comment. On a conference call with investors, SandRidge CEO James Bennett told analysts SandRidge does not "have any more facts of the investigation, other than what we put in the (SEC filing)," according to a transcript of the call.

Investors should not be concerned, said Bennett.

Chesapeake Energy Corp, a company that Ward co-founded with Aubrey McClendon, has been the subject of antitrust probes by state and federal authorities since 2012. It is not clear if the inquiries are related.

Under Ward, well results from the company's top growth prospect, the Mississippi Lime, in Oklahoma and Kansas, disappointed investors. He was also criticized by investors for reckless spending that created unnecessary risks for shareholders.

Apart from claims of strategic missteps, activist investor TPG-Axon Capital alleged that Ward and the company's board allowed WCT Resources, an Oklahoma company run by Ward's son Trent, to acquire the rights to drill for oil and gas near SandRidge operations.

SandRidge has said its board found no wrongdoing in the land deals and that WCT was an independent oil and gas company.

Shares of SandRidge ended 2 percent higher, up 12 cents, at $6.45 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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