Attorney General Bill Schuette says one of the two North American energy giants charged in a collusion scheme to suppress the prices at Michigan oil and gas lease auctions, agreed to plead no contest to one criminal charge as part of a settlement.
Encana pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of attempted antitrust violations. As part of the settlement that also brings a $5 million fine, a high misdemeanor charge of antitrust violations relating to a contract or conspiracy will be dismissed.
Charges against Chesapeake Energy, Encana's alleged partner in the bid-rigging, remain pending.
The charges are the culmination of a nearly two-year investigation that began following a report by Reuters in 2012 that revealed a conspiracy between the two companies to bid in separate areas of the state and avoid competing against each other in the same auction to prevent driving up the price.
Schuette says the state’s May 2010 auction saw an average lease price of $1,510 per acre, but that fell to less than $40 an acre at the October auction, and the alleged conspiracy may have been a factor.