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Univ. of Toledo College of Law

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Friday, July 11, 2008

El Paso Settles Charges of Inflating Oil & Gas Reserves

The SEC filed a civil action against El Paso Corporation (El Paso), its subsidiaries and several former employees alleging that they inflated the companies' proved natural gas and oil reserves in violation of the federal securities laws. The complaint names Rodney D. Erskine, the former president of El Paso's Exploration and Production Business Segment, Randy L. Bartley, the former senior vice president of El Paso's Exploration and Production Business Segment, and Steven L. Hochstein, John D. Perry, and Bryan T. Simmons, former vice presidents of El Paso's Exploration and Production Business Segment. According to the complaint, the defendants violated the antifraud and other provisions of the federal securities laws. All defendants have agreed to settle the charges against them, without admitting or denying the Commission's allegations.

In 2004, El Paso restated its financial statements for years 1999 through 2002, and for the first nine months of 2003, reducing its previously reported proved natural gas and oil reserves at December 31, 2002, 2001, and 2000 by 2.2 trillion cubic feet equivalent of natural gas (TCFe), 3.3 TCFe, and 3.3 TCFe, respectively, and materially reducing its previously reported standardized measures of future cash flows. The total cumulative impact of the restatements reduced El Paso's stockholders' equity as of September 30, 2003 by $1.7 billion. CGP and EPPH also restated their previously issued financial statements to correct their material overstatements of proved natural gas and oil reserves, standardized measures of future cash flows, and capitalized costs relating to their natural gas and oil producing activities. The Commission's complaint alleges that, between 1998 and the quarter ended September 30, 2003, El Paso and its subsidiaries, with the assistance of the individual defendants, inflated its proved natural gas and oil reserves, overstated its standardized measure of future cash flows, and overstated its capitalized costs relating to its natural gas and oil producing activities.

El Paso consented to a judgment that permanently enjoins it from future violations of these provisions.  The individual defendants agreed to civil penalties as well as injunctive relief.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/securities/2008/07/el-paso-settles.html

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