It’s not exactly a secret that Chesapeake Energy likes its privacy.
Last month, Chesapeake asked the Texas attorney general’s office to keep the details of its out-of-court settlement with the Fort Worth school district under wraps by arguing that releasing the terms would benefit its competitors, in this instance not a rival firm but other folks suing them.
Chesapeake is getting sued — a lot — in the Barnett Shale and elsewhere for how it paid out royalties to landowners from its natural gas leases. Plaintiffs say they used sham transactions to allow them to subtract post-production costs from their checks.
To continue keeping secret how it has operated in the Barnett Shale, Chesapeake will go into court Monday morning to ask a state district judge to permanently seal more than 30 documents, generally saying they contain confidential financial information and trade secrets. The documents were requested as part of ongoing litigation with Fort Worth attorney Dan McDonald’s law firm, which has filed more than 400 lawsuits against Chesapeake.
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While this may not seem like a lot — and it is considerably less than the more than 300 Chesapeake originally sought to have sealed — attorneys say it is part of an ongoing pattern by the company to hide how it conducted business in North Texas. By comparison, Total E&P USA, a co-defendant in the lawsuit, has only asked that five documents be sealed.
There is a presumption of openness in Texas courts. The entity or person seeking to tuck the information away must show that there is a specific, serious and substantial interest that outweighs the public’s right to see the information and that it outweighs any adverse effect on public health and safety.
“The theme here is ‘Don’t let the public see these documents,’ ” said attorney George Parker Young, who is working with McDonald. “They claim they are trade secrets. I don’t understand. I can speculate that their reason is that they don’t want people to know what they are doing.”
“It is still a bunch and looking at those 30 documents I don’t see anything that is a trade secret,” Young said.
Attorney Ralph Duggins, who represents the school district and the city of Fort Worth in its lawsuits against Chesapeake, said the company “has the burden to prove each of the 30 documents are in fact a trade secret.”
“A court record like court proceedings should be presumed to be open to all members of the public,” Duggins said. “Chesapeake has to demonstrate circumstances to circumvent that presumption.”
No surprise here, but Chesapeake is basically silent on the issue, with spokesman Gordon Pennoyer in Oklahoma City declining to comment.
Travelocity turns 20
Most dot-coms didn’t make it past childhood, much less the teen-age years.
But this weekend, Travelocity — which was one of the earliest online travel sites where consumers could buy airline tickets without using a travel agent — celebrates its 20th birthday.
The company was founded as part of American Airlines’ parent company, AMR Corp. In 2000, Travelocity became a publicly traded company after it merged with Preview Travel.
“When we took it public, we played to empty rooms at analyst conferences,” remembers former CEO Terry Jones, noting that companies like Pets.com were the Wall Street darlings. “All other kinds of companies were getting the attention, but travel ended up being by far and away the biggest Internet commerce market.”
As more online travel sites emerged, Travelocity slipped out of its first-place market position. It continued to struggle as it went private and then finally was purchased by rival Expedia in 2015.
Expedia has kept the Travelocity brand and website running, moving to new offices in Dallas. Brad Wilson, vice president and general manager, said the company is able to provide consumers more travel choices now that it’s owned by Expedia.
“We have more hotel properties to offer customers when they come onto the site as well as greater package variations,” Wilson said, adding there are about 75 employees at the Dallas offices.
To celebrate its 20th year, employees were given Travelocity luggage and spent Friday afternoon eating cake and toasting Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome icon with champagne.
Recently, Travelocity unveiled a new ad campaign, “Wander Wisely,” emphasizing the site’s customer guarantees and travel planning tools.
“When I think about the history of the Web, I can name on one hand companies that have truly made a turnaround like this, and now we’re viable and healthy,” Wilson said.
American CEO: We’re from Fort Worth
New Yorkers sometimes aren’t accurate with their geography.
When American Airlines CEO Doug Parker was introduced at the J.P. Morgan transportation conference last week, analyst Jamie Baker noted that the afternoon sessions featured two Dallas airlines as Southwest Airlines was scheduled to present right after Parker.
“I need to correct one thing,” Parker said as soon as he got in front of the mike. “Unlike our friends at Southwest, we represent Dallas/Fort Worth. I get in trouble with the mayor of Fort Worth if I say we’re from Dallas, and rightfully so.”
Somewhere Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price must have been smiling.
Liberty Burger coming to north Fort Worth
Liberty Burger, which started in Dallas and has five North Texas locations, is adding a sixth on the Fort Worth side.
A representative of MG Retail Partners, the Dallas-based firm that owns a portion of north Fort Worth’s Presidio Junction, confirmed to our Bud Kennedy that a Liberty Burger is expected to open in the third quarter at the continuously expanding shopping center west of Interstate 35W between North Tarrant Parkway and Heritage Trace Parkway.
Presidio Junction is also home to Wendy’s and In-N-Out Burger, which are practically a patty’s throw from each other on North Tarrant Parkway. Liberty Burger is, however, North Texas-grown.
The first location was opened in North Dallas by Mariel Street, the daughter of North Texas restaurant guru Gene Street (Black-Eyed Pea, Lucky's, Good Eats, Cool River). In a 2012 DFW.com review, our Cary Darling praised its variety (the somewhat over-chatty online menu lists a dozen burgers, including lamb, turkey and veggie patties). Robert Philpot