SEC filings are often long and full of details that make most investors have a glassing-over look in their eyes. Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE: CHK) has filed its proxy materials for its annual meeting and there is a big disclosure over the controversial ‘well participation program.’
If you go all the way to page 14 under the “Transactions with Related Persons” section after the disclosure about the Oklahoma City Thunder that is where you find the goodies. This is the “Founder Well Participation Program” and it shows the sums that Aubrey McClendon got from the well participation program. After that, it also shows that the Map Sale was rescinded.
In order to avoid any data confusion and in order to avoid any contextual issues, we have run this verbatim from the proxy materials. The proxy noted, “The Board and Aubrey voluntarily renegotiated the terms of the FWPP to provide for early termination on June 30, 2014, 18 months before the previous termination date of December 31, 2015, pursuant to a letter agreement previously filed with the SEC. Aubrey will receive no compensation of any kind in connection with the early termination of the FWPP. Further, to address requests for more information, Aubrey voluntarily disclosed personal financial and operational information regarding his oil and gas investments through the FWPP.”
The company has reaffirmed that it plans to nominate an independent non-Executive Chairman. Here are the full details of the WELL PARTICIPATION PLAN as follows:
The FWPP permits Mr. McClendon, the Company’s co-founder, to participate and invest as a working interest owner in new wells drilled by the Company. In 2005, the FWPP was documented as a formal plan containing substantially the same terms as prior agreements with the Company’s two co-founders that had been in place since the Company’s initial public offering in 1993. Shareholders approved the FWPP on June 10, 2005. The participation of co-founder Tom L. Ward terminated following his separation from the Company in 2006. The Company believes the FWPP fosters and promotes the development and execution of the Company’s business by aligning the interests of Mr. McClendon and the Company. Mr. McClendon has continually participated in the FWPP since the Company’s initial public offering in 1993, except during the five-quarter period from January 1, 1999 to March 31, 2000. The Board and Mr. McClendon recently renegotiated the terms of the FWPP to provide for the early termination of the FWPP on June 30, 2014, 18 months before the end of its current term on December 31, 2015, pursuant to a letter agreement previously filed with the SEC on the Company’s Form 8-K on May 2, 2012. Mr. McClendon will receive no compensation of any kind in connection with the early termination of the FWPP.
Under the FWPP, Mr. McClendon has the right to participate in either all or none of the wells spudded by or on behalf of the Company during each calendar year. Prior to the beginning of each year, Mr. McClendon must provide written notice to the members of the Compensation Committee of his election to participate in the FWPP and his proposed working interest percentage for that year. His working interest percentage may not exceed a 2.5% working interest in a well and is not effective for any well where the Company’s working interest after Mr. McClendon’s participation election would be reduced to below 12.5%. Subject to these limitations, if Mr. McClendon elects to participate in the FWPP, he must participate in all wells spudded by or on behalf of the Company during the given calendar year and cannot elect to participate on a well-by-well basis. In September 2011, Mr. McClendon elected to participate in the FWPP for the 2012 calendar year at the maximum 2.5% working interest permitted, the same participation percentage that Mr. McClendon has elected for the past nine years.
The FWPP is administered and interpreted by the Compensation Committee of the Board. Shareholder approval is required for any amendment to the FWPP that increases the maximum working interest percentage applicable to Mr. McClendon or any amendment which, in the opinion of counsel to the Company, requires shareholder approval under any federal or state law or any regulations or rules promulgated thereunder. Mr. McClendon’s right to participate in the FWPP during any calendar year will terminate on the earlier of (i) December 31 of such year; (ii) the termination of Mr. McClendon’s employment by the Company for cause or death; (iii) the expiration or termination of any and all covenants not to compete subsequent to the termination of Mr. McClendon for any reason not included in the foregoing clause (ii); or (iv) the termination of the FWPP on June 30, 2014. Mr. McClendon may participate in the drilling of wells under the FWPP through entities in which all equity interests are owned solely by Mr. McClendon and his immediate family members, subject to approval by the Compensation Committee.
Under the FWPP, Mr. McClendon cannot change his working interest percentage during any calendar year without the prior approval of the Compensation Committee, and he is required to pay all joint interest billings immediately on receipt of the Company’s invoice and to advance to the Company any amounts which the Company is required to prepay to third party operators with respect to Mr. McClendon’s working interest to be assigned under the FWPP. Mr. McClendon has never requested, nor has the Committee ever made, an adjustment to the participation percentage during a participation period.
The FWPP provides that the amount paid by Mr. McClendon for acreage assigned in connection with his participation in the FWPP is to be recomputed as of the first day of each calendar year and is equal to a fully costed average per acre amount computed as follows: (i) direct costs capitalized in the appropriate accounting pool in accordance with the Company’s accounting procedures (including all capitalized interest, leasehold payments, acquisition costs, landman charges and seismic charges); divided by (ii) the acreage in the applicable pool at the time of computation. The annual computation allows the Company to reflect the acreage and costs with respect to newly acquired acreage, acreage sold by the Company and acreage that has expired. All other costs are billed in accordance with the Company’s accounting procedures applicable to third-party participants pursuant to any joint operating agreement or exploration agreement relating to a particular well, and such amounts paid by Mr. McClendon in connection with his participation in a well are on no better terms than the terms agreed to by unaffiliated third party participants in connection with the participation in such well or similar wells operated by the Company. The Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”) regularly audits the Company’s federal income tax returns, and in connection with its audit of our 2008 and 2009 returns, the IRS is reviewing certain issues with respect to the FWPP. We have been in discussion with representatives of the IRS and believe that resolution of these issues will not have a material impact on the Company.
Mr. McClendon pays the Company for lease operating expenses and capital expenditures related to his FWPP interests promptly upon receipt of each invoice. The following table sets forth the revenue received from, and well costs paid to, the Company with respect to Mr. McClendon’s FWPP interests during the first quarter of 2012 and each of the three years in the period ended December 31, 2011:
The foregoing information has been derived solely from the Company’s records. Accordingly, it excludes revenues and expenses for some FWPP interests that are not operated by the Company, and it may include revenue and expenses for producing FWPP interests conveyed to others. For example, the foregoing amounts include revenue attributable to volumetric production payments (VPPs) owed to third parties under transactions that Mr. McClendon has entered into from time to time. Mr. McClendon pays the related lease operating expenses and disburses revenue to the VPP owners.
Mr. McClendon has advised us that his cumulative expenditures under the FWPP have significantly exceeded his cumulative production revenues to date. Substantial front-end investments of capital are required to drill oil and natural gas wells, and Mr. McClendon’s capital investment has continued to increase as the Company’s capital expenditures have increased over the years. Production and cash flow from sales of natural gas and oil for new wells are received over an extended period of time. Mr. McClendon believes the present value of the future net revenue (pretax) of the estimated proved developed producing reserves attributable to his FWPP interests at December 31, 2011, discounted at 10% per year and based on prices and costs under existing conditions at such date, was approximately $409.0 million. Prices for this calculation were the unweighted arithmetic average prices of natural gas and oil on the first day of each month within the 12-month period ended December 31, 2011. The Company’s reservoir engineering staff provides data and analysis to Mr. McClendon’s affiliates with respect to reserves associated with FWPP interests using the engineering previously prepared for the Company’s interest in the same wells. In 2011, Mr. McClendon reimbursed the Company approximately $315,000 to cover the estimated cost of such services. As indicated in the Company’s 2011 Form 10-K filed on February 29, 2012 and other filings that include estimates of the Company’s proved natural gas and oil reserves, any computation of proved producing reserves is an estimate, subject to a number of variables and not a reflection of fair market value. A portion of the leasehold owned by Mr. McClendon with respect to the FWPP consists of interests that are not categorized as proved developed producing reserves.
Mr. McClendon’s FWPP interests are his personal assets and are separate and distinct from the Company’s interest in its oil and gas properties and other assets. The FWPP does not restrict sales, other dispositions or financing transactions involving FWPP interests acquired from the Company. From time to time, Mr. McClendon has sold FWPP interests separately and concurrently with sales by the Company of its interests in the same properties. In any concurrent sales the proceeds related to the properties have been allocated between Mr. McClendon and the Company based on their respective ownership interests. Since January 1, 2011 through April 26, 2012, Mr. McClendon advises that he realized approximately $108.6 million from such sales, and he paid approximately $550,000 of deal costs. Additionally, over the life of the FWPP, Mr. McClendon has typically mortgaged his interests acquired under the FWPP with one or more lenders, some of which also have lending, investment or advisory relationships with the Company. Mr. McClendon’s mortgages with these lenders secure loans used in whole or in part to fund Mr. McClendon’s well costs. The Company does not extend loans to Mr. McClendon for participation in the FWPP or any other purposes. Neither the Company nor the Board reviews or approves financings of Mr. McClendon’s personal assets, including his FWPP interests. In addition, the Company has no obligation to repay any loans Mr. McClendon may obtain nor are any of the Company’s interests in any assets exposed to such loans or the mortgages securing them. Following consultation with the Board, on April 26, 2012 Mr. McClendon separately disclosed supplemental information regarding the interests he has acquired through the FWPP. The Company also announced on April 26, 2012 that the Board is reviewing the financing arrangements between Mr. McClendon (and the entities through which he participates in the FWPP) and any third party that has had or may have a relationship with the Company in any capacity.
Rescission of Map Sale
Pursuant to a settlement agreement with certain plaintiff shareholders, the sale of a historical map collection that occurred in December 2008 between Mr. McClendon and the Company will be rescinded. Mr. McClendon will pay the Company approximately $12 million plus interest through the closing date, and the Company will reconvey the map collection to Mr. McClendon. The transaction is scheduled to be completed not later than 30 days after the entry of a final non-appealable judgment. The settlement, which was approved by the District Court of Oklahoma County, Oklahoma on January 30, 2012, has been appealed and, at this time, it is unknown when such appeal will be resolved. For more information, please see “Item 3. Legal Proceedings” of the Company’s annual report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2011 filed on February 29, 2012.
Under beneficial ownership, the proxy materials show that Aubrey McClendon owns only 1,780,170 shares of common stock.
JON C. OGG