Dec 16 (Reuters) - An examiner needs to be appointed in the bankruptcy of Samson Resources Corp to look into the theft of nearly $2 million from the energy company and allegations it short-changed landowners on royalty payments, according to the U.S. government's bankruptcy watchdog.
Acting U.S. Trustee Andrew Vara said in court papers filed on Tuesday that about $1.8 million of Samson's estate funds were stolen last month when an email account of its chief financial officer was used to direct an employee to wire the money to an account at a Regions Bank in Birmingham, Alabama.
About $1.5 million has been recovered by Regions Bank and the remaining $300,000 may be covered by Samson's insurance, Vara said, adding that Samson is investigating who may have gained access to Chief Financial Officer Philip Cook's email account.
Vara also said in the court papers filed in Bankruptcy Court in Delaware that his office has been contacted by various landowners regarding royalties they get from Samson for oil and natural gas leases. They assert that Samson "over a period of years" intentionally and fraudulently miscalculated royalty payments, Vara said.
Although Samson, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, says its payments were accurate, Vara said he believes it appropriate to have a third-party probe the matter.
A Samson spokesman said the company had no comment on Vara's motion for an order to appoint an examiner. A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Jan. 5.
Vara's motion for having an examiner appointed in Samson's Chapter 11 case follows a lawsuit filed last week by Pennsylvania's attorney general against Chesapeake Energy Corp and its affiliates over claims they underpaid landowners who leased land for fracking operations.
A spokesman for Chesapeake said the allegations are baseless and the company will contest them.
Samson's Chapter 11 filing in September marked this year's biggest energy-related bankruptcy.
The case is Samson Resources Corp, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, 15-11934. For the U.S. Trustee: Tiiara N.A. Patton, David Buchbinder and Natalie Cox of the Office of the U.S. Trustee.
Reporting by Jim Christie; Editing by Leslie Adler