A high-profile divorce case in Oklahoma includes a name that may be familiar to many of our North Dakota readers — Harold Hamm. His company, Continental Resources, is the largest one in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale formation. The Oklahoma City-based company reportedly has more than a billion barrels in oil reserves. It appears that little about the company, however, is going to be made public in the divorce proceedings.
The general counsel for the company argued that sensitive and confidential information about Continental would be presented in opening statements. He said this would include board meeting minutes, emails and information about Continental’s oil reserves. He said that such information could be used by competitors. Hamm reportedly holds more than a two-thirds stake, which has been valued at over $19 billion.
The judge agreed to the request, saying, “There is no sense in destroying a company over a divorce trial.” He did agree to allow public access to information presented in the case that doesn’t involve confidential information about the company.
While an attorney for Hamm’s wife said that his team did not plan to provide detailed confidential information about the business in opening statements, he acknowledged that the estimates of Continental’s oil reserves would be discussed, since they impact how the couple’s estate will be divided. Mrs. Hamm’s attorney said the reserves are “what this trial is all about.”
The Hamms have been married since 1988, just over two decades after Hamm started the company. When the couple married, Continental was still relatively small. It now has a market capitalization of more than $28 billion. According to Oklahoma law, money earned by spouses during the marriage is considered “marital wealth” and can be divided in a divorce.
Investors in the company are likely going to be interested in the outcome of the divorce. If his wife receives a large settlement, Harold Hamm may liquidate his shares in the company. This could impact his controlling stake in the company.
Most divorces do not involve the division of billions of dollars in assets and are not watched by large numbers of people. When a couple’s wealth is largely tied to a publicly-traded company, however, many more people have a stake in the outcome of the case than the couple and their immediate family.
Source: MSN Money, “RPT-Judge bars public from Oklahoma divorce trial with billions at stake” Joshua Schneyer, Aug. 04, 2014