By Anna Driver and Brian Grow
HOUSTON (Reuters) - Aubrey McClendon, the CEO of Chesapeake Energy Corp, has borrowed as much as $1.1 billion over the last three years against his stake in thousands of company wells - a move that analysts, academics and attorneys who reviewed loan documents say raises the potential for conflicts of interest.
The loans, which haven't been previously detailed to shareholders, are used to fund McClendon's operating costs for an unusual corporate perk that offers him a chance to invest in a 2.5 percent interest in every well the company drills. McClendon in turn is using the 2.5 percent stakes as collateral on those same loans, documents filed in five states show.
The size and nature of the loans raise questions about whether McClendon's personal financial deals could compromise his fiduciary duty to Chesapeake investors, experts who reviewed the documents told Reuters.
Both McClendon and Chesapeake said the loans don't pose any conflict of interest. And they are private transactions that the company has no responsibility to disclose or to vet, Chesapeake said. "There are no covenants or obligations in my loan documents or mortgages that bind Chesapeake in any way," McClendon wrote in an email to Reuters.
The revelation comes as McClendon is scrambling to help Chesapeake weather a multi-billion-dollar cash shortfall amid a plunge in natural gas prices.
McClendon's biggest personal lender, EIG Global Energy Partners, has also been a big financier for Chesapeake. EIG and other investors have helped Chesapeake raise more than $2 billion through the sale of preferred shares that provide very favorable terms to the buyers. (Editing by Blake Morrison)
(Reporting By Anna Driver and Brian Grow)