United States: Tips For Dispute Avoidance In The Current Oil Price Environment

Last Updated: September 18 2015
Article by Micheal P. Lennon Jr.

Keywords: energy, oil, oil prices, dispute avoidance,

Oil prices, which held below $50/bbl in August 2015, are projected to remain below $60/bbl through 2016.1 As a result, the conventional belief is that oil and gas disputes will rise in the latter part of 2015 and into 2016, triggered in some measure by the banks' next round of reserve-based redeterminations for oil and gas companies. Whether it is for this reason or some other, financial strain in the industry is likely to spin off disputes between producers and service companies and/or among working interest partners. Infrastructure and construction disputes also will be in the mix.

This article outline three steps that could maximize opportunities for dispute avoidance. If a dispute is not avoided, a party taking these steps should also be in a better position to manage and, hopefully, prevail in an eventual dispute.

Assess Your Contracts

A timely review of contract terms familiarizes the contract management team with the company's rights and allows them to spot contract risks early, so that steps can be taken to avoid or mitigate problems. Proactive contract reviews are more structured and productive than a reactive contract analysis in response to a problem that has already arisen or a claim that has already been filed.

Timely scenario analysis can be a useful complement to contract analysis. The breadth and depth of the scenario analysis can be varied in accordance with the risks and stakes. Outside counsel and/or consultants may be useful contributors, of course, because their experience may shed light on how similar scenarios have played out in similar circumstances. Even if scenario analysis is not appropriate for the situation, a simple flow chart of actions can assist the contract management team in navigating a difficult situation or difficult counterparty.

Actively Manage Your Contracts

It is axiomatic that a company should adhere to contracts. More is intended here—the suggestion is careful dotting of "i"s and crossing of "t"s. A counterparty at risk likely will be on the look out for any noncompliance or breach as a reason to escape a contract. Conversely, if you are the party needing relief, but are not looking to get out entirely, you do not want to provoke a notice of default or termination; this requires respect for the details of contract provisions. Therefore, careful attention to detail and strict contract compliance are recommended.

For example, a joint operating agreement may contain somewhat detailed requirements for an Authorization for Expenditure (AFE) or for awarding contracts through competitive bidding. Likewise, contracts routinely contain specific notice procedures for various actions, such as a declaration of force majeure, and sometimes also have specific deadlines for taking actions, such as objecting to an AFE or submitting a change order request. Accounting and procurement requirements can be traps for the unwary. Taking details seriously, and not just treating them as technicalities, can help keep the contract on the rails. Moreover, compliance with applicable time-bars and notice requirements ensures that the right to make a claim is not lost, even if a settlement might be expected or achieved.

Active contract administration also entails communication. Queries from a counterparty, or even notices of default, cannot be dealt with by silence. Silence generally worsens a situation. Ignoring it will not make it go away.

Avoid Aggravating the Situation

If a default or breach has occurred or is imminent, a dispute may still be avoided if the situation is analyzed and managed properly. To start with, if not already done in a proactive mode, a prompt and properly informed analysis of the problem allows you to assess available options, including mitigation strategies. This reduces the risk of an admission against interest or other compromising statement being made.

Pay close attention to the timing and tone correspondence. Respond in a reasonable time; do not ignore letters or emails. Aggressively toned letters ("Nasty Grams") likely will aggravate what may already be a tenuous situation. Moreover, the drafter should assume that the letter will be exhibited in proceedings if the situation is not successfully resolved. Correspondence that is temperate and judicious not only reduces the risk of escalation, but will also put you into the strongest position possible before your court or arbitral tribunal.

In addition, keep careful records of all communications, including notes of telephone conversations or meetings for which minutes are not prepared. Gather all relevant documents. Avoid creating prejudicial documents that might be produced in discovery later. Difficult issues should be taken up in phone calls or meetings rather than internal memoranda or emails where possible.

Ensure that reasonable steps to avoid or reduce loss are properly considered and taken. Mitigation is usually good for the company and is a prerequisite to the recover of damages in most jurisdictions. That could even mean entering a new contract with the same counter-party.

Finally, keep the commercial settlement option open. Most disputes need not be treated as "line-in-the-sand" matters or raise precedent-setting issues, and these can be resolved commercially. Settlement saves money, effort and distraction of management, and preserves commercial relationships for the future.

Footnote

[1] EIA Short-Term Energy Outlook, August 11, 2015.

Originally published 9 September 2015

Visit us at mayerbrown.com

Mayer Brown is a global legal services provider comprising legal practices that are separate entities (the "Mayer Brown Practices"). The Mayer Brown Practices are: Mayer Brown LLP and Mayer Brown Europe – Brussels LLP, both limited liability partnerships established in Illinois USA; Mayer Brown International LLP, a limited liability partnership incorporated in England and Wales (authorized and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and registered in England and Wales number OC 303359); Mayer Brown, a SELAS established in France; Mayer Brown JSM, a Hong Kong partnership and its associated entities in Asia; and Tauil & Chequer Advogados, a Brazilian law partnership with which Mayer Brown is associated. "Mayer Brown" and the Mayer Brown logo are the trademarks of the Mayer Brown Practices in their respective jurisdictions.

© Copyright 2015. The Mayer Brown Practices. All rights reserved.

This Mayer Brown article provides information and comments on legal issues and developments of interest. The foregoing is not a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter covered and is not intended to provide legal advice. Readers should seek specific legal advice before taking any action with respect to the matters discussed herein.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions