4
| News |

The Verdict's In

^
Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

"Government is doing less, so the companies can do more -- more cooking of the books."

That's Bobby Maxwell, a former auditor for the federal Minerals Management Service, explaining how major oil and gas companies have been able to rip off the taxpayers for millions in underpaid royalties on energy leases offshore and on federal lands. Yesterday a federal jury in Denver agreed with him, nailing Kerr-McGee for $7.5 million due on oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico. With penalties and fees, the bill could reach between $30 and $40 million - and Maxwell and his attorneys could end up with a third of that for taking on a case the government didn't want to pursue. Kerr-McGee's attorneys haven't indicated yet whether they will appeal the verdict.

The story of how Maxwell took on Kerr-McGee, despite his bosses urging him to drop the matter, and how it probably cost him his job, can be found here. And here's the truly bad news for big oil: Inspired by Maxwell's example, four other MMS auditors have filed similar lawsuits, seeking millions in unpaid royalties that their agency has declined to collect.

Government may be doing less, but some civil servants - lured by the possibility of collecting a big bounty, but risking their jobs in the process - are keen on doing more. -Alan Prendergast

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.