Chesapeake Energy Corp., the nation’s second-largest natural gas company after Exxon Mobil, has been caught up in controversy after controversy since 2009. Now the company is under fire again, this time because of a series of email exchanges between Chesapeake executives (including CEO Aubrey McClendon) and officials at EnCana Corp., Canada’s largest natural gas company, that indicate they attempted to suppress the price of land leases in Michigan.
According to Pro Publica, the Justice Department is investigating whether any laws against price fixing have been violated. Should the Justice Department find cause to prosecute, this could prove much more serious than a PR issue. Under the Sherman Antitrust Act, price fixing is a felony and is punishable by fines of up to $100 million for companies, and $1 million for company officials.