- Associated Press - Friday, April 24, 2015

CHEBOYGAN, Mich. (AP) - Chesapeake Energy pleaded no contest Friday to attempted antitrust violations and agreed to pay $25 million to settle claims that it conspired to keep prices down during an auction for oil and gas leases, state officials announced.

“This is a victory for Michigan taxpayers and a victory for all the Michigan land owners who took deep hits to their pocketbooks following the October 2010 private land auction,” Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a written statement. “This settlement will achieve recovery for every one of the more than 700 affected victims who come forward and make a valid claim.”

The per-acre cost of leases had dropped to $40 from $1,510.

In addition to the $25 million, Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake will pay $5 million to the state. Encana Oil and Gas USA agreed last year to pay $5 million.

Separately, Chesapeake pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors in northern Michigan’s Cheboygan County. The case will be dismissed next year if Chesapeake follows the settlement.

“We are pleased to … move past these legacy issues inherited from past management,” company spokesman Gordon Pennoyer said. “The current management team is focused on delivering top quartile performance and driving shareholder returns.”

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