January 16, 2019 / 5:17 PM / a month ago

Whiting Petroleum sues oil marketer alleging sweetheart deal by ex-employee

HOUSTON, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Whiting Petroleum Corp this month filed a counterclaim to a lawsuit by a Texas oil marketer that it claimed gave a former executive "favors, cash and trips" to win a sweetheart crude resale agreement.

Jamex Marketing LLC sued the second-largest oil producer in the Bakken shale field of North Dakota in 2018, claiming Whiting ordered Shell Trading US to quit buying crude from Jamex.

Jamex said it had an 2017 agreement to sell Shell 15,000 barrels per day of Whiting's Bakken crude that it valued at more than $49 million.

In its counterclaim in a Dallas, Texas, county court, Whiting alleged Jamex provided "lavish entertainment and other gifts" and cash to a marketing vice president that it later dismissed. That executive convinced Shell to pay Jamex a broker fee for oil that Whiting had already agreed to supply Shell.

Whiting said the vice president, Bruce Taton, did not alert his bosses to the arrangement with Jamex and was dismissed in September 2017.

Whiting's lawsuit filed on Jan. 4 said it was tipped off by an anonymous shareholder who alleged Taton "colluded with (Jamex Chief Executive James) Ballengee to steer millions of Whiting dollars to companies Mr. Ballengee controlled."

The arrangement with Jamex "resulted in a loss of revenue and increase in cost to Whiting," the suit claimed.

Taton declined to comment when reached by phone on Wednesday.

Whiting said it does not comment on pending litigation, and Whiting's lawyer, Barry Barnett, declined to comment.

Shell declined an immediate comment.

Jamex sued Whiting in April over the loss of its 2017 contract with Shell. The agreement would have provided the shipper $7 million a year over seven years in revenue, according to Joel Reese, Jamex's lawyer.

"We contend the communications to Shell were improper and that we're entitled to the benefits of the contract that Whiting stole," Reese said in an interview.

Whiting's suit said it has not recouped payments Shell made to Jamex, and seeks damages and a jury trial.

The case is Jamex Marketing LLC v Whiting Petroleum v James Ballengee, Dallas County Court, Texas, No. DC-18-04574 (Reporting by Collin Eaton in Houston Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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