By Ernest Scheyder
Sept 21 Chesapeake Energy Corp has hired
James Webb as its 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 Chesapeake for
the past four months, will be its top lawyer, 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 and will remain a senior vice president,
overseeing Chesapeake's land and regulatory departments.
Shares of Chesapeake were down slightly at $19.43 in late
morning trading on Friday. So far this year, the stock has lost
about 13 percent of its value.
A trial lawyer, Webb defended Chesapeake CEO Aubrey
McClendon and other owners of the Seattle Supersonics basketball
team in 2008, when officials of Seattle, Washington sued them -
unsuccessfully - over a plan to move the team from Seattle to
Oklahoma City. The team moved and its name changed to Oklahoma
A Reuters report in June showed Chesapeake and Encana Corp
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
The company has also come under intense scrutiny after
Reuters reported in April that 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 loans, saying there was no conflict of interest
and that company's board of directors was "fully aware of the
existence of Mr. McClendon's financing transactions."
Hood was later rebuked by the board, which said in its own
statement that it had only been "generally aware" of McClendon's
deals and "did not review, approve or have knowledge of the
Webb has worked for 17 years at the Oklahoma law firm McAfee