UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS DALLAS DIVISION
NOTICE OF CLASS ACTION, PROPOSED CLASS SETTLEMENT, AND MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS’ FEES AND EXPENSES
If you own mineral rights (oil and gas) but do not have a current oil and gas lease due to a prior mortgage foreclosure in certain portions of Tarrant or Johnson Counties, Texas, you may be entitled to a cash payment from a class action settlement.
Please read this notice carefully, as it affects your legal rights.
A federal court authorized this notice. This is not a solicitation from a lawyer.
- This is to notify you of a proposed class action settlement involving oil and gas production in groups of properties called “units” formerly operated by Chesapeake Operating, L.L.C. (“Chesapeake”) and currently operated by TEP Barnett USA, LLC, an affiliate of TOTAL E&P USA, INC. (“Total”) (Chesapeake and Total are referred to herein as “Defendants”). As explained in detail below, you are a member of the class covered by the proposed settlement if you are the owner of mineral interests in Johnson or Tarrant Counties, Texas, where such mineral interests were previously subject to a mineral lease with any Defendant, but where such mineral interest is now unleased due to foreclosure of a valid, prior-recorded mortgage(s) on such mineral interests. There are important exceptions, such as the existence of a subordination agreement or subsequent lease, discussed in detail below.
- The settlement will provide up to $3,200,000 to pay for all of the following: (1) class member claims payable to settlement class members; (2) legal fees of up to $720,000 payable to Plaintiffs’ counsel (which includes certain costs); and (3) named representative incentive payments of up to $4,000. This is expected to result in an average net recovery of approximately $619 per Settlement Class Member after the deduction of fees, costs and expenses, though Settlement Class Members generally will receive amounts based on the amount of oil and gas production attributable to their specific Property.
If you are a Settlement Class Member, your legal rights will be affected regardless of whether you act or do not act. Please read this notice very carefully.
SUBMIT A CLAIM
BY FEBRUARY 22, 2020
The only way to get a cash payment is to submit a valid claim.
The claim filing period ended on February 23, 2020.
EXCLUDE YOURSELF FROM THE SETTLEMENT CLASS
BY JANUARY 23, 2020
|Get no cash payment. This is the only option that, assuming your claim is timely brought, might allow you to bring your own separate lawsuit against Defendants concerning the Released Claims.|
|Write to the Court about why you do not like the Settlement, the Plan of Allocation, and/or Lead Counsel's Fee and Expense Application. If you object, you will still be a member of the Settlement Class.|
|GO TO A HEARING||Ask to speak in Court about the fairness of the proposed settlement.|
|DO NOTHING||Get no payment. Give up rights.|
- These rights and options - and the deadlines to exercise them - are explained in this notice.
- The Court in charge of this case still has to decide whether to grant final approval to the Settlement. Payments will be made to all eligible Settlement Class Members who timely submit valid Claim Forms, if the Court approves the Settlement and after any appeals are resolved. Please be patient.
- Why did I get this notice?
You have been identified through real property records of Tarrant and/or Johnson County as the potential owner of a Class Property. Receipt of this Notice does not mean that you are a Member of the Settlement Class or that you will be entitled to receive a payment. If you wish to be eligible for a payment, you are required to submit the Claim Form that is being distributed with this Notice and be confirmed as a member of the Settlement Class by the Claims Administrator.
The Court directed that this Notice be sent to Settlement Class Members because they have a right to know about the proposed Settlement of this class action lawsuit, and about all of their options, before the Court decides whether to approve the Settlement.
The Court in charge of the Action is the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and the case is known as Arbuckle Mountain Ranch, et al. v. Chesapeake Energy. et al., No. 3:14-CV-4584-M. The Action is assigned to the Honorable Barbara Lynn, United States District Judge.
- What is this case about and what has happened so far?
The lawsuit is currently pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division. The settling defendants in the case are Chesapeake Energy Corporation, Chesapeake Operating, L.L.C., formerly known as Chesapeake Operating, Inc., Chesapeake Exploration, L.L.C., Chesapeake Energy Marketing, L.L.C., formerly known as Chesapeake Energy Marketing, Inc., (collectively, “Chesapeake”) and Total E&P USA, Inc. (“Total,” and together with Chesapeake, the “Defendants”).
Plaintiffs and the settlement class members own or owned minerals (and in almost every case the corresponding surface estate) located in Johnson and Tarrant Counties, Texas—two contiguous Texas counties. These counties sit above an underground geological formation that contains huge reserves of natural gas trapped in shale rock called the Barnett Shale. Starting in 2005, Chesapeake and several other large oil and gas companies began getting permission from the mineral owners who lived above that formation to drill gas wells and extract the gas through contracts called oil and gas leases. Leases give permission to an oil company to drill and produce the gas under the homes or properties in exchange for payment to the home or property owner of a monthly percentage of the gas sold or produced (called a “royalty”). Without a lease, an oil company typically does not have permission to produce and sell another person’s oil or gas.
Because most of the property owners living above the Barnett Shale owned typical home lots of ¼ acre or less, Chesapeake and other oil and gas companies needed to lease entire neighborhoods, and then combine those properties into large groupings called “units” in order to drill wells and extract the gas. Sometimes, the mineral interests that were leased by Chesapeake were already subject to prior-recorded mortgages. In 2008 and 2009, the financial crisis caused many homes in the Barnett Shale area to be foreclosed upon. When there was a foreclosure of a prior-recorded mortgage, and where the minerals were not previously separated from the mortgage, Plaintiffs allege that the later oil and gas leases were extinguished or terminated by the prior foreclosure.
The Settlement Class members acquired their mineral interests after mortgage foreclosures in Johnson and Tarrant counties. Again – Plaintiffs allege these foreclosures extinguished any oil and gas lease(s) on the foreclosed properties recorded after the prior recorded mortgages. Plaintiffs allege that despite Defendants’ knowledge of the lease terminations created by the foreclosures, they proceeded to produce huge amounts of the Settlement Class’ oil and gas without any valid lease, and without compensating class members for the minerals Defendants were taking.
Defendants deny the allegations.
In 2014, Arbuckle Mountain Ranch brought suit against Chesapeake and Total in Texas state court for trespassing on Arbuckle’s (and the class members’) property and improperly producing and converting large volumes of their minerals without a lease. The lawsuit asserts claims against Defendants for declaratory relief, trespass, injunctive relief, conversion, and money had and received. Defendants denied all liability and asserted conditional counterclaims for declaratory judgment and to quiet title.
Shortly after the case was filed in state court in Johnson County, Texas, Defendants had the case transferred or “removed” to federal court. Arbuckle sought to have the case transferred back to the State Court, which the federal district court granted. But then Defendants successfully appealed to the federal court of appeals (Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals), which decided the case should stay in federal court. Plaintiffs sought permission from the United States Supreme Court to take up the issue and decide which court this lawsuit should stay in, but the U.S. Supreme Court did not take the case. Therefore, the case remained in federal district court where it is still pending today.
From approximately January 2017 through May 2019, the Parties engaged in discovery and motion practice, including Motions to Dismiss the Complaint, a Motion for Summary Judgment, and several Motions to Compel discovery filed by Lead Plaintiffs. Lead Plaintiffs engaged experts, engaged in summary judgment briefing, and reviewed thousands of pages of documents provided by Defendants.
Chesapeake initiated settlement discussions in October of 2018. Plaintiffs countered that proposal with a settlement demand. In May of 2019, Lead Plaintiffs and Defendants (together, the “Parties”) agreed to attempt private settlement negotiations of the Action.
On the afternoon of May 29, 2019, the Parties participated in a settlement negotiation session in Houston, Texas, at the law offices of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP. After several counteroffers back and forth, and lengthy discussions regarding the non-monetary aspects of the settlement, the negotiation session ended without resolution, as the Parties were not able to come to an agreement in principle to settle the Action. The Parties continued negotiations over the following weeks and reached an agreement in principle to resolve the class claims against Defendants on June 21, 2019, for a Settlement Fund totaling $3.2 million dollars, inclusive of 22.5% in fees, subject to Court approval.
- Why is this a class action?
In a class action, one or more persons or entities (in this case, Lead Plaintiffs), sue on behalf of people and entities who have similar claims. Together, these people and entities are a “class,” and each is a “class member.” Class actions allow the adjudication of many individuals’ similar claims that might be too small economically to bring as individual actions. One court resolves the issues for all class members at the same time, except for those who exclude themselves, or “opt-out,” from the class.
- What are the reasons for the Settlement?
The Court has not finally decided in favor of Plaintiffs or Defendants. Instead, both sides agreed to a settlement. Lead Plaintiffs and Lead Counsel believe that the claims asserted in the Action have merit. They recognize, however, the expense and length of continued proceedings needed to pursue the claims through trial and appeals, as well as the difficulties in establishing liability. For example, Defendants have raised a number of arguments and defenses (which they would raise at summary judgment and trial) countering Lead Plaintiff’s allegations, such as the Defendants’ wellbores did not directly traverse or trespass under the vast majority of the Class’s properties, and so Texas legal concepts such as the rule of capture prevent any liability for their actions. Defendants also maintain that there are no recoverable damages since most of the Class did not have any minerals removed from their property. In the absence of a settlement, the Parties would present factual and expert testimony on each of these issues, and there is a risk that the Court or jury would resolve these issues unfavorably against Plaintiffs and the Settlement Class. Plaintiffs and Lead Counsel believe that the proposed Settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate, and in the best interests of the Settlement Class.
Defendants have denied and continue to deny each and every one of the claims alleged by Lead Plaintiff in the Action, including all claims in the First Amended Class Action Complaint. Nonetheless, Defendants have concluded that continuation of the Action would be protracted and expensive and have taken into account the uncertainty and risks inherent in any litigation, especially a complex case like this Action, and believe that the Settlement is in the best interests of Defendants.
- How do I know if I am part of the Settlement Class?
The proposed settlement agreement defines the following settlement class for which the Parties seek certification for settlement purposes:
All past or current owners of mineral interest tracts in Johnson and/or Tarrant Counties, Texas, where such mineral interest tracts were previously subject to a mineral lease with any Defendant, but where such mineral interest tract is now unleased by Defendants due to foreclosure of a valid, prior-recorded mortgage(s) on such mineral interest tracts, from which Defendant(s) produced gas or other minerals after the foreclosure.
- Are there expectations to being included in the Settlement Class?
Yes. Consistent with Plaintiffs’ First Amended Class Action Complaint, the following persons are excluded from the proposed settlement class:
(i) Owners of Properties covered by validly executed and recorded post-foreclosure leases, proper pre-mortgage leases to Chesapeake or Chesapeake’s predecessor in interest, and any mineral lease made superior to the foreclosed mortgage by a valid, properly recorded subordination agreement;
(ii) Owners of any Properties where the minerals were carved out or reserved from the mortgage prior to the recording of the mortgage;
(iii) All governmental entities, including federal, state, local governments and their respective agencies, departments and quasi-governmental entities, including but not limited to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and related agencies;
(iv) the states and territories of the United States, and any foreign citizens, states, nations, territories or entities;
(v) the United States of America; and
(vi) any person or entity that Plaintiffs’ counsel is, or may be, prohibited under Texas law from representing.
Also excluded from the Settlement Class is anyone who timely and validly seeks exclusion from the Settlement Class in accordance with the procedures described in Question 11 below.
- What does the settlement provide?
In exchange for the Settlement and the release of the Released Claims against the Released Defendant Parties (see Question 10 below), Defendants have agreed to cause a $3.2 million cash payment to be made, which will be distributed after deduction of Court-awarded attorneys’ fees and any other fees or expenses approved by the Court, to Settlement Class Members who send in valid and timely Claim Forms and who do not validly seek exclusion from the Settlement Class.
In order for a Qualified Claimant to be entitled to payment, the following requirements must be met:
(i) The Claimant owns the minerals in the tract on which the claim is based;
(ii) The subject tract is located within the boundaries of a pooled unit that is or was operated by a Defendant and/or Defendants' Releasees from which Defendants and/or Defendants' Releasees produced oil or gas after November 1, 2010 and after the Claimant acquired its ownership in the subject tract;
(iii) The subject tract was leased under an oil and gas lease to one or more Defendants and/or Defendants' Releasees (or that was assigned to one or more Defendants and/or Defendants' Releasees), which lease was pooled by Defendants and/or Defendants' Releasees into the pooled unit of which the subject tract is located with the boundaries;
(iv) The subject tract was subject to a non-judicial foreclosure sale that occurred after the date of execution of the oil and gas lease described in condition # 3 and that foreclosed the debtor's interest under a deed of trust that pre-dated such oil and gas lease;
(v) The oil and gas lease described in condition # 3 was not described in a subordination or carve-out agreement;
(vi) The subject tract is not subject to a post-foreclosure lease taken prior to November 19, 2014 either by one or more of the Defendants and/or Defendants' Releasees, or by another and subsequently assigned to one or more of the Defendants and/or Defendants' Releasees; and
(vii) The subject tract is not covered by a pre-mortgage lease to any Defendant or to any Defendant's predecessor in interest.
- How can I receive payment?
To qualify for a payment from the Settlement Fund, you must submit a timely and valid Claim Form. A Claim Form is included with this Notice. You may also obtain one from the website dedicated to the Settlement:
- submit a claim
- or from Lead Counsel’s website: www.cwylaw.com
- or you can request that an additional Claim Form be mailed to you by calling the Claims Administrator toll-free at 800-372-5657.
Please read the instructions contained in the Claim Form carefully, fill out the Claim Form, include all the documents the form requests, sign it, and mail or submit it to the Claims Administrator so that it is postmarked or received no later than February 23, 2020.
- When will I receive my payment if I qualify as a Settlement Class Member?
The Court will hold an Objection and Final Settlement Hearing on March 23, 2020 to decide, among other things, whether to finally approve the Settlement. Even if the Court approves the Settlement, there may be appeals which can take time to resolve, perhaps more than a year. It also takes a long time for all of the Claim Forms to be accurately reviewed and processed. Please be patient.
If the settlement is approved and you receive a settlement check, you must deposit or cash it within one hundred twenty (120) days after the date on the check. If you do not, the check will be void and you will no longer be entitled to any payment from the Settlement Fund, although you will still be bound by the settlement, including the release of your claims.
- What am I giving up to receive a payment and by staying in the Settlement Class?
If you are a Settlement Class Member and do not timely and validly exclude yourself from the Settlement Class, you will remain in the Settlement Class and that means that, upon the “Effective Date” of the Settlement, you will release all “Released Plaintiffs Claims” against the “Released Defendant Parties.” Participation in the Settlement requires each Qualified Claimant to (i) agree to the Release discussed in the Settlement Agreement and Settlement Notice; (ii) grant TOTAL E&P USA, INC. and its affiliate TOTAL E&P USA Barnett, LLC an option to lease a Qualified Claimant's tract under an agreed lease for no additional cash consideration other than future royalties; and (iii) grant a subsurface easement to TOTAL E&P USA, INC. and its affiliate TOTAL E&P USA Barnett, LLC to the extent any existing wellbore traverses the Qualified Claimant's tract below the surface but above the Barnett Shale formation. A Claimant must acknowledge that, by submitting a claim in this matter, the Claimant will be deemed to have agreed to the release and to have granted the option and easement described above.
“Released Plaintiffs Claims” means any and all complaints, claims, third- party claims, cross-claims, counterclaims, demands, liabilities, obligations, promises, agreements, controversies, actions, causes of action, suits, rights, damages, costs, losses, debts, charges and expenses of any and every nature whatsoever, whether in law or in equity, whether arising under federal, state, local, or foreign statutory or common law or any other law, rule, or regulation (whether foreign or domestic), whether currently known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, foreseen or unforeseen, ripened or unripened, accrued or unaccrued, or matured or not matured, whether arising in equity or under the law of contract, tort, malpractice, statutory breach, or any other legal right or duty, whether direct, derivative, individual, representative, or in any other capacity, and to the fullest extent that the law permits their release in the Action, that Lead Plaintiffs, or any other member of the Settlement Class: (i) asserted against Defendants in the Complaint or any other pleadings filed in the Action; or (ii) could have asserted against Defendants’ Releasees in any forum that (a) arise out of, relate to, are connected with, or are in any way based upon the allegations, transactions, facts, matters or occurrences, representations or omissions involved, set forth, or referred to in the First Amended Class Action Complaint or any other pleadings filed by any party in the Action. Released Plaintiffs’ Claims include any theory of recovery related to unleased tracts that was pled or that could have been pled, including but not limited to any claim seeking to recover damages or injunctive relief related to any and all wellbores drilled and completed as of the Effective Date of this settlement and located within units in which any Settlement Class Member owns property, and any production of oil and gas from such wellbores. Released Plaintiffs’ Claims do not include: (i) any claims relating to the enforcement of the Settlement; and (ii) any claims of any person or entity who or which submits a valid and timely request for exclusion that is accepted by the Court.
In addition, Defendants will be releasing the following claims against you if you participate in the Settlement Class: “Released Defendants’ Claims” means all claims and causes of action of every nature and description, whether known claims or Unknown Claims, whether arising under federal, state, common or foreign law, that arise out of or relate in any way to the institution, prosecution, or settlement of the claims asserted in the Action against the Defendants. Released Defendants’ Claims do not include any claims relating to the enforcement of the Settlement or any claims against any person or entity who or which submits a request for exclusion from the Settlement Class that is accepted by the Court.
- How do i exclude myself from the Settlement Class?
If you want to keep any right you may have to sue or continue to sue Defendants and the other Released Defendant Parties on your own concerning the Released Claims, then you must take steps to remove yourself from the Settlement Class. This is called excluding yourself or “opting out.” Please note: If you decide to exclude yourself, there is a risk that any lawsuit you may file to pursue claims alleged in the Action may be dismissed, including because the suit is not filed within the applicable time periods required for filing suit.
Any member of the Settlement Class may elect to be excluded from this Settlement and from the Settlement Class by timely and properly opting out of the Settlement Class. Any member of the Settlement Class who desires to be excluded from the Settlement Class must give to the Claims Administrator its election to be excluded on or before February 7, 2020.
Send your notice of exclusion to the following address:
Arbuckle Class Settlement
c/o Claims Administrator
P.O. Box 23650
Jacksonville, FL 32241-3650
Any notice of exclusion must include the following from the member of the Settlement Class seeking to be excluded: (a) full name, (b) telephone number, (c) current address, (d) a statement that the person wishes to be excluded from the Settlement, and (e) the signature of the person who wishes to be excluded from the Settlement (or is authorized to make such request for an entity that wishes to be excluded from the Settlement).
Settlement Class Members who timely opt-out of the Class Action Settlement shall: (a) be excluded from the Class Settlement; (b) have no right to receive any benefits under the Class Settlement; (c) not be bound by the terms of the Class Settlement; and (d) have no right to object to the terms of the Class Settlement or to be heard at the Final Fairness Hearing.
Settlement Class Members cannot both object to and opt-out of this settlement. Any Settlement Class Member who attempts to both object to and opt-out of this Settlement will be deemed to have opted out and will forfeit the right to object to this Settlement or any of its terms.
- If I do not exclude myself, can I sue Defendants and the other Released Defendant Parties for the same thing later?
No. Unless you properly exclude yourself, you will give up any rights to sue Defendants and the other Released Defendant Parties for any and all Released Claims. If you have a pending lawsuit against any of the Released Defendant Parties, speak to your lawyer in that case immediately. You must exclude yourself from this Settlement Class to continue your own lawsuit. Remember, the exclusion deadline is January 23, 2020.
- If I exclude myself, can I get money from the proposed Settlement?
No, only Settlement Class Members are eligible to recover money from the Settlement.
- Do I have a lawyer in this case?
Circelli, Walter and Young, PLLC is Lead Counsel in the Action and represents all Settlement Class Members. The Court will determine the amount of attorneys’ fees and expenses, which will be paid from the Settlement Fund. If you want to be represented by your own lawyer, you may hire one at your own expense.
- How will the lawyers be paid?
Class Counsel will ask the Court for attorneys’ fees and expenses up to $720,000. Defendants have agreed not to oppose this request. The Court may award less than the amount requested. Since even before the start of the litigation, Class Counsel have pursued the case on behalf of class members purely on a contingent basis and have received no compensation for their services or reimbursement of their expenses. Any award of attorneys’ fees and expenses, approved by the Court, up to the amount of $720,000 in attorneys’ fees and expenses will be paid out of the Settlement Fund, leaving $2,480,000 for class claims. However, if administrative costs exceed the amount of $75,000, such costs will also be paid from and reduce the Settlement Fund for Class Claims.
Defendants also agree to pay third-party administration costs not to exceed $75,000 as set forth in the Agreement. Such costs (to the extent they do not exceed the cap) will be paid separately and in addition to the Settlement Fund without reducing the Settlement Fund or the cash payments provided to class members under the settlement.
Class Counsel will also seek a $1,000 incentive award for each of the four (4) plaintiffs named in the current complaint filed in this lawsuit for their initiative and efforts in pursuing and participating in the case on behalf of the class. Any incentive awards approved by the Court will be paid from the Settlement Fund.
- How to tell the Court that I do not like something about the proposed Settlement?
If you are a Settlement Class Member, you can object to the Settlement or any of its terms, the proposed Plan of Allocation of the Settlement Fund, and/or Lead Counsel’s Fee and Expense Application. You may write to the Court about why you think the Court should not approve any or all of the Settlement terms or related relief. If you would like the Court to consider your views, you must file a proper objection within the deadline, and according to the following procedures.
To object, you must send a signed letter stating that you object to the proposed Settlement, the Plan of Allocation, and/or the Fee and Expense Application in “Arbuckle Mountain Ranch, et al. v. Chesapeake Energy. et al., No. 3:14-CV-4584-M.” Your objection must state why you are objecting and whether your objection applies only to you, a subset of the Settlement Class, or the entire Settlement Class. The written objections must: (a) state the objector’s full name, address, email address, and telephone number; (b) provide information and supporting documentation demonstrating that the person or entity owns property interests that make them a member of the Settlement Class, including, but not limited to, when the person or entity acquired an interest in the property, the physical address of the property, and the legal description of the property; (c) set forth a brief statement regarding the nature of the objections; (d) state the reasons for the objections; (e) include copies of any papers that support the objections; (f) the objector’s signature and verification under oath that the objector believes he/she is a Settlement Class member; and (g) if the objector wants to be heard at the Final Fairness Hearing, state that the objector intends to appear at the Final Fairness Hearing. If the objection is made through an attorney, the written objection must also provide the attorney’s name, address, email address, and telephone number. Unless otherwise ordered by the Court, any Settlement Class Member who does not object in the manner described in this Notice will be deemed to have waived any objection and will be forever foreclosed from making any objection to the proposed Settlement, the Plan of Allocation, and/or Lead Counsel’s Fee and Expense Application.
You must mail or deliver your objections or comments to the Clerk of the Court, with copies to Class Counsel and Defendants’ counsel, such that they are received no later than February 7, 2020. The addresses for the Clerk of the Court, Class Counsel, and Defendants’ counsel are as follows:
Clerk of the Court
United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division
1100 Commerce Street, Room 1452
Dallas, TX 75242
Vincent P. Circelli
George Parker Young, Esq.
Kelli L. Walter
CIRCELLI, WALTER & YOUNG, PLLC
Tindall Square Warehouse
500 E. 4th Street, Suite 250
Fort Worth, Texas 76102
(682) 703-2246 telephone
Scott Douglass & McConnico, LLP
Christopher D. Sileo
303 Colorado, Suite 2400
Austin, Texas 78701
If you do not raise your objections according to the above procedure, you will waive all objections and have no right to appeal if the settlement is approved.
You may, but need not, enter an appearance in the lawsuit through your own attorney. If you do, you will be responsible for your own attorney’s fees and costs.
You do not need to attend the Settlement Hearing to have your written objection considered by the Court. However, any Settlement Class Member who has complied with the procedures described in this Question 16 and below in Question 20 may appear at the Settlement Hearing and be heard, to the extent allowed by the Court. An objector may appear in person or arrange, at his, her, or its own expense, for a lawyer to represent him, her, or it at the Settlement Hearing.
- What is the difference between objecting and seeking exclusion?
Objecting is telling the Court that you do not like something about the proposed Settlement, Plan of Allocation, or Lead Counsel’s Fee and Expense Application. You can still recover money from the Settlement. You can object only if you stay in the Settlement Class. Excluding yourself is telling the Court that you do not want to be part of the Settlement Class. If you exclude yourself from the Settlement Class, you have no basis to object because the Settlement and the Action no longer affect you.
- When and where will the Court decide whether to approve the proposed Settlement?
The Court will hold the Settlement Hearing on March 24, 2020 at 9:00 a.m., in Courtroom 1570 of the Earle Cabell Federal Building, at the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, 1100 Commerce Street, Room 1452, Dallas, TX 75242.
At this hearing, the Court will consider whether: (i) the Settlement is fair, reasonable, adequate, and should be approved; (ii) the Plan of Allocation is fair and reasonable, and should be approved; and (iii) the application of Lead Counsel for an award of attorneys’ fees and payment of litigation expenses is reasonable and should be approved. The Court will take into consideration any written objections filed in accordance with the instructions in Question 16 above. We do not know how long it will take the Court to make these decisions.
You should be aware that the Court may change the date and time of the Settlement Hearing without another notice being sent to Settlement Class Members. If you want to attend the hearing, you should check with Lead Counsel or visit the settlement website, here, beforehand to be sure that the hearing date and/or time has not changed.
- Do I have to come to the Settlement Hearing?
No. Lead Counsel will answer any questions the Court may have. But, you are welcome to attend at your own expense. If you submit a valid and timely objection, the Court will consider it and you do not have to come to Court to discuss it. You may have your own lawyer attend (at your own expense), but it is not required. If you do hire your own lawyer, he or she must file and serve a Notice of Appearance in the manner described in the answer to Question 20 below no later than January, 2, 2020.
- May I speak at the hearing?
You may ask the Court for permission to speak at the Settlement Hearing. To do so, you must, no later than January 2, 2020, submit a statement that you, or your attorney, intend to appear in “Arbuckle Mountain Ranch, et al. v. Chesapeake Energy. et al., No. 3:14-CV-4584-M.” Persons who intend to present evidence at the Settlement Hearing must also include in their objections (prepared and submitted in accordance with the answer to Question 16 above) the identities of any witnesses they may wish to call to testify and any exhibits they intend to introduce into evidence at the Settlement Hearing. You may not speak at the Settlement Hearing if you exclude yourself from the Settlement Class or if you have not provided written notice of your intention to speak at the Settlement Hearing in accordance with the procedures described in this Question 20 and Question 16 above.
- What happens if I do nothing at all?
If you do nothing and you are a member of the Settlement Class, you will receive no money from this Settlement and you will be precluded from starting a lawsuit, continuing with a lawsuit, or being part of any other lawsuit against Defendants and the other Released Defendant Parties concerning the Released Claims. To share in the Settlement Fund, you must submit a Claim Form (see Question 8 above). To start, continue, or be a part of any other lawsuit against Defendants and the other Released Defendant Parties concerning the Released Claims, you must exclude yourself from the Settlement Class (see Question 11 above).
- Are there more details about the Settlement?
You may also review the Settlement Agreement at Court or other documents in the case during business hours at the Office of the Clerk of the United States District Court, Northern District of Texas, United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, 1100 Commerce Street, Room 1452, Dallas, TX 75242. Subscribers to PACER, a fee-based service, can also view the papers publicly in the Action through the Court’s online Case Management/Electronic Case Files System at www.PACER.gov.
You can also get a copy of the Settlement Agreement, and other documents related to the Settlement, as well as additional information about the Settlement by visiting the website of Lead Counsel, www.cwylaw.com
You may also call the Claims Administrator toll free at 800-372-5657 or write to the Claims Administrator at:
Arbuckle Class Settlement, c/o Claims Administrator, PO Box 23369 Jacksonville, FL 32241-3369.
- How will my claim be calculated?
Plaintiffs’ Lead Counsel Plaintiffs, working together with the Claims Administrator, are responsible for the allocation of the Settlement Fund (less attorneys’ fees and costs approved by the Court) to the Settlement Class members based of the following plan (“Plan of Allocation”):
(i) The “Tract’s Net Mineral Acres” associated with each tract on Plaintiffs’ Class List based on the percentage of the minerals in the subject tract owned by the person identified on Plaintiffs’ Class List;
(ii) The Tract’s Net Mineral Acres divided by the total acres in Defendants’ Unit in which the subject tract was pooled (the “Tract’s Unit Interest”);
(iii) The Tract’s Unit Interest multiplied by the total production measured in MCF (thousands of cubic feet) for Defendants’ Unit in which the subject tract was pooled from November 1, 2010 forward through April 2019 production based on Texas Railroad Commission (“RRC”) records (the “Tract’s MCF”);
(iv) The Tract’s MCF divided by the total MCF of all tracts identified on Plaintiffs’ Class List (the “Tract’s Settlement Allocation Factor”);
(v) The Tract’s Settlement Allocation Factor is then multiplied by $2.48 million or the balance in the Settlement Fund after attorneys’ fees and Litigation Expenses approved by the Court not to exceed $720,000. However, if administrative costs exceed the amount of $75,000, such costs will also be paid from and reduce the Settlement Fund for Class Claims.
(vi) In the event there are two or more Qualified Claimants for a given tract’s share based on common ownership, the Claims Administrator will prorate such share based on percentage of each Qualified Claimant’s ownership.
(vii) In the event there are two or more Qualified Claimants for a given tract’s share of the Settlement Fund based on interim ownership, the Claims Administrator will prorate such share based upon production during each Qualified Claimant’s ownership period.
After payout to all Class Members who qualify as a Qualified Claimant, any remaining amounts in the Settlement Fund will be returned to Defendants.
- How to get more information.
HOW TO GET MORE INFORMATION: You can get more information by:
(a) calling the Administrator toll free at 800-372-5657;
(b) writing to the Settlement Administrator at Arbuckle Class Settlement, c/o Claims Administrator, PO Box 23369, Jacksonville, FL 32241-3369, or
(c) by sending a written inquiry to Class Counsel at the address in Question 16, above.