Energy and Natural Resources
Over the years, McAfee & Taft lawyers have represented clients involved in virtually every aspect of the energy industry. In many instances, they truly pioneered the field, such as when founder Kenneth McAfee filed to establish the first public drilling fund in the early 1950’s, and when co-founder Richard Taft filed the first registration statement of a foreign drilling fund, and the two of them developed many novel approaches to oil and gas tax planning. Early on they were joined by Eugene O. Kuntz, noted author of the multi-volume Kuntz: A Treatise on the Law of Oil and Gas and generally considered to be the expert on oil and gas law nationwide. The firm’s leadership in finding creative solutions to legal issues in the energy business has quite naturally continued since those early innovative years.
Today, many of the firm’s attorneys continue to devote a considerable portion of their practice to various aspects of the energy industry. While the firm has a long-standing tradition of representing companies engaged in oil and gas exploration and production, our energy practice has expanded over the years to encompass midstream and downstream operations, renewable and sustainable energy projects, and all aspects of regulatory and environmental compliance.
As one might expect in a largely energy-based economy, the firm’s clients include numerous small and medium-sized independent oil and gas companies as well as large publicly held energy companies and Fortune 500 corporations, oil and gas operators, drilling contractors, oilfield service companies, equipment designers and manufacturers, investors and lenders in energy-related transactions, crude oil and petroleum products pipeline companies, natural gas transmission and distribution pipeline companies, refineries, transportation and marketing companies, alternative energy companies, wind farm developers, and landowners of property on which wind farms are located. Clients of the firm are involved a wide spectrum of energy operations throughout the United States and Canada, offshore and overseas.
Both the firm’s Energy and Oil & Gas Group and its individual attorneys have been well-recognized for their expertise. The Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers for Business has awarded McAfee & Taft its highest rankings in the area of Energy and Natural Resources Law each year since it began its evaluations, and the firm has the most attorneys singled out for individual honors in Oklahoma. In addition, Houston, TX-based EnergyPoint Research, Inc. awarded McAfee & Taft its highest ratings for overall customer satisfaction in its inaugural legal services survey. The firm was one of only six law firms nationally to receive the industry-leading four-ribbon rating.
Firm lawyers are also actively involved in industry matters, both in leadership roles in industry organizations and as featured speakers at forums and events throughout the region and nationally. These include the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, Independent Petroleum Association of America, Center for American and International Law, Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, Mineral Lawyers Society of Oklahoma City, Eugene Kuntz Conference on Natural Resources Law and Policy, National Oil and Gas Royalty Conference, Council of Petroleum Accountants Societies, National Association of Lease and Title Analysts, National Association of Division Order Analysts, Association of Oil Pipelines, American Petroleum Institute, International Right of Way Association, American Gas Association, NACE, Gas Processors Association, Dallas Bar Association Energy Law Section, Oklahoma Bar Association, and the American Bar Association’s Section on Environment, Energy and Resources.
Comprehensive Legal and Business Services
Corporate, Business and Growth Strategies
The firm’s representation of energy clients in corporate and business matters largely involves the structuring and negotiation of purchase, sale, financing, recapitalization, equity investment, AMI, farmout, lease, drilling, and similar transactions with respect to oil and gas properties and energy industry businesses, including securities offerings for oil and gas drilling programs and funds. The firm also represents energy clients with respect to day-to-day operational and business matters, and historically has done oil and gas title work and represented clients before all applicable regulatory authorities when economically feasible to do so for those clients. We have also served as special tax counsel to major oil companies in complex deals such as tax-deferred split-off transactions and multibillion dollar transactions between energy companies.
Our business and transaction tax planning practice encompasses a wide variety of substantive areas, including partnership taxation, S Corporation and C Corporation taxation, international taxation, state taxation, tax planning related to company/shareholder agreements, entity choice and conversion, internal reorganizations for restructuring for multi-company groups, mergers and acquisitions, and like-kind exchanges as well as planning for gains/losses, income recognition, cancellation of indebtedness issues, state and federal deductions and tax credits, business incentives and alternative minimum tax planning.
Litigation and Dispute Resolution
McAfee & Taft trial attorneys try significant oil and gas cases in the course of their general litigation practice, and much of the work of our real estate, banking, creditor’s rights and bankruptcy lawyers involves the energy industry as well.
In recent years, we have represented major oil and gas companies in lawsuits involving such issues as the Oklahoma Production Revenue Standards Act, Oklahoma Surface Damages Act, nuisance, trespass and conversion, breach of contract or implied covenant, payment of royalties, quiet title, lease cancellation, adverse possession, alleged price discrimination, Corporation Commission matters, products liability, negligence and wrongful death, and environmental matters, including contribution claims arising out of alleged pollution sites and contribution/indemnity actions arising out of Superfund sites. Our lawyers have also defended statewide, multistate and nationwide class action lawsuits for nuisance and environmental matters.
The firm has also represented clients in a significant number of cases involving claims by large numbers of landowners, royalty owners and others related to oil and gas production and/or development. Most have included tort or tort-type claims with punitive damage allegations. Some have included class action allegations, but most have involved either one lawsuit with many plaintiffs or multiple lawsuits. In these cases, the coordinated handling and efficient analysis of large volumes of information has been required, and the trials have been extended proceedings lasting as long as three months.
Environmental, Regulatory, Health & Safety Counseling
The firm routinely provides counsel to energy companies on a broad range of regulatory and environmental issues and has developed particular experience in the areas of liabilities and exposures assessment, compliance planning and programs, worker safety (OSHA) enforcement and regulation, security issues, SCADA issues, transportation issues, spill response and remediation, waste management issues including scope and availability of exemptions, site remediation, land application and underground injection well permitting and operation, and environmental permitting, compliance and enforcement. Our attorneys also represent affected parties in state and federal enforcement actions, rulemaking and adjudicatory proceedings.
Employment, Labor and Employee Benefits
McAfee & Taft’s Labor & Employment Group represents energy companies of all sizes, including several Fortune 500 companies, in employment-related matters. Such experience has given us special insight and a keen understanding of dynamics that are specific to the industry. We understand the challenges of maintaining remote locations and the dynamics associated with working with independent contractors and employees of vendors, and we provide guidance as to the best ways to ensure a safe and productive workplace — one that reflects the client’s culture and values.
Our services encompass a broad range of workplace issues, including litigation avoidance, hiring and interviewing techniques, Fair Labor Standards Act compliance, policies and procedures, independent contractor agreements, discrimination and retaliation claims, drug and alcohol testing, occupational safety and health compliance, Form I-9 audits and investigations, discipline and termination, merger hiring decision analysis, severance program decisions and individual severance agreements, management and supervisor training, and general employee and HR training.
Our employee benefits and executive compensation attorneys assist industry clients of all sizes in designing and administering health and welfare plans, qualified and non-qualified retirement plans, and employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) to help employers attract and retain talented and motivated employees. We also advise clients on all areas of executive compensation, including equity compensation arrangements (such as stock option, phantom stock and restricted stock award plans), long-term incentive awards and supplemental retirement plans.
Much of our work also involves helping clients reduce expenses as well as minimize risks and financial liabilities. In the area of health and welfare plans, we assist energy companies in analyzing plan design and developing strategies to reduce costs. We also counsel employers on health care reform compliance, COBRA, HIPAA, and funding and taxation issues; litigate plan-related claims; and manage the employee benefits and compensation aspects of merger and acquisition transactions for which the firm provides corporate legal services.
Patents and Other Intellectual Property Rights
McAfee & Taft’s intellectual property attorneys assist energy clients in enhancing revenue, protecting competitive positions, and maximizing brand value by securing and defending their rights to valuable inventions and technology, trademarks and other intellectual property.
Over the years, M&T attorneys have represented numerous major oil companies in intellectual property matters and prepared and prosecuted hundreds of U.S. and foreign patent applications directed to inventions relating to all phases of oil and gas production and refinement technologies. Other services include infringement analysis, freedom to operate studies (including assistance in designing around third party patents), portfolio management, due diligence associated with mergers and acquisitions, M&A cleanup and assignment, licensing and other intellectual property agreements, and counseling clients on how best to protect their confidential and proprietary information as trade secrets.
As an Oklahoma-based law firm with a long history of serving energy clients, our patent attorneys have a unique understanding of, and insight into, the business concerns and operations of the industry. All of our patent attorneys have dealt with oil and gas-related technology, particularly apparatus and processes used in drilling, completion and production. In addition, two of our patent attorneys previously served as in-house patent counsel for a Fortune 500 energy company, and another worked as an engineer for an oilfield services company before joining the firm.