Chieftain Royalty Co. v. QEP Energy Co.

NPR served as co-class counsel in this action alleging QEP, an energy company with oil and gas operations in Oklahoma, secretly and systematically made unlawful deductions from a class of royalty owners’ monthly royalty payments. Specifically, the class alleged, among other things, that QEP ignored Oklahoma law and the class members’ oil and gas leases by requiring class members to bear QEP’s operating costs associated with turning raw gas into a marketable product—costs that ordinarily cannot be shared with royalty owners. After more than two years of litigation, which included defeating early dispositive motions, completing substantial fact and expert discovery, obtaining class certification in the face of very real obstacles, and creating intricate damage models, NPR and its co-counsel obtained a $155 million settlement for the class. This settlement consisted of a $115 million cash payment (which alone represents more than 100% of the class’ principle claim for royalty underpayment) and contractually guaranteed future benefits that ensure QEP will not resume its previous practice of improper cost deductions. QEP itself estimated the present value of these future benefits to exceed $40 million. However, in real dollars over the next 30 years—a conservative estimate of the lives of the existing oil and gas wells—the future benefits will likely provide more than $200 million in additional royalty payments to the class members. To NPR’s knowledge, this settlement—even when reduced to its present value—is one of the largest oil and gas class action settlements in U.S. and Oklahoma history. On May 31, 2013, the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma granted final approval of the settlement.

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