Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dispute Over Oil and Gas Investments Preceded Major Bashinsky's Mysterious "Suicide"

William Cobb "Chip" Hazelrig

In the months leading to Major Bashinsky's death in March 2010, court documents show that his father's estate was being stonewalled in a lawsuit over proceeds from Oklahoma oil and gas wells.

Is it coincidence that Bashinsky was reported missing just two days after the contentious lawsuit concluded? We do not have a definitive answer to that question. But public records show that Sloan Y. Bashinsky Sr. invested more than $37 million in the wells, via partnerships with W&H Investments of Birmingham, and his estate was trying to determine his share of the profits.

That sounds like it should have been a fairly straightforward endeavor. Code of Alabama 10-8A-403(c)(2) makes it clear that W&H's Fred Wedell and William Cobb "Chip" Hazelrig had a duty to turn over pertinent information to the estate of a deceased partner. And court documents show that Sloan Bashinsky and his advisers tried to obtain the information while he was alive, in order to prepare an estate disposition plan. Even after Mr. Bashinsky's death in August 2005, the estate tried to resolve the matter without filing a lawsuit.

Why was a lawsuit required, and why did it drag on for almost four years, with the estate apparently never receiving adequate answers to this question: "What happened to Sloan Y. Bashinsky Sr.'s money?"  Why was the process so difficult when it seems clear that the estate was legally entitled to the information it sought? Did the lawsuit become so rancorous that a member of the Bashinsky family became "collateral damage"--paying with his life over issues that did not directly involve him?

We know that Hazelrig has ties to both the gaming industry and to powerful figures in Alabama Republican Party circles. Did the prying eyes of the Bashinsky estate prove so unnerving that someone, perhaps a non-party to the lawsuit, felt the need to send a lethal warning shot?

This much is clear from an objective review of the court record: Hazelrig and Wedell were not anxious to turn over information about their business affairs, and they gave the distinct impression of trying to hide something. The estate had to file at least a half dozen motions to compel during the discovery process--with all of them being granted--and those documents show just how deeply W&H was willing to dig in its heels. Let's consider information from one of the early motions to compel, filed on August 30, 2007. The full motion can be viewed at the end of this post:

An Elaborate Shell Game?

The estate contends that it notified W&H of the need to maintain records related to Bashinsky's investments. So what happened? The records, according to court documents, wound up with Enterra Energy Trust, a Canadian outfit that became the operator of Birmingham Exploration Venture (BEV) partnerships, which now is being operated under the name Altex Energy. "They are out of our control and cannot be produced," W&H responded, in so many words. The estate was not amused. From the motion to compel:

It is a matter of record that Defendants Wedell and Hazelrig, through W&H, once had custody and control of the documents at issue and transferred them to Enterra without Bashisky's knowledge or consent. Moreover, such transfer was made after Defendants were on notice that the documents were sought by Bashinsky and the representatives of his estate.

Well . . . Well . . . Wells

In how many wells did Bashinsky hold an interest? You might think it would be fairly easy to answer that question--but you would be wrong. From the motion to compel:

To date, Defendants have provided lease assignments regarding a number of wells in which the BEV Partnerships held an interest. Admittedly, in some instances, it is difficult to determine the actual wells to which the lease assignments refer. However, according to the Plaintiffs' best judgment at this time, the number of assignments provided refers to 43 wells. However, according to the well list prepared by Plaintiffs from the information contained in the BEV Partnerships' tax records, the BEV Partnerships held an interest in 288 wells. Inexplicably, among those lease assignments produced, twelve were executed in 2006, several months after Bashinsky's death.

A reasonable observer can understand why the estate had concerns about the W&H record keeping.

What's In A Name?

Court records suggest that the estate was perplexed that Mr. Bashinsky's funds were transferred to various entities without his knowledge. And the estate seems particularly suspicious of the relationship between W&H and Enterra, the company based in Canada:

Defendants have produced no contracts between W&H and Enterra subsidiaries Altex Resources/Energy to operate wells in which the BEV Partnerships have an ownership interest. Therefore, Plaintiffs are unable to determine the specifics of the operating agreement or the compensation paid to Altex Resources/Energy for operating the wells. Defendants would instead have Plaintiffs accept at face value computer data generated by Defendants' accountants, after the fact, without any supporting records to verify the validity and accuracy of the data. Plaintiffs can only conclude from the lack of written operating agreements between W&H and Enterra that the two entities have an especially close relationship.

One gets the impression that Mr. Bashinsky, during his life, was kept in the dark about the relationship between W&H and Enterra. And it appears that deception continued after his death.

Why was someone trying to hide information about Mr. Bashinsky's investments? And did that game of hide-and-seek, involving perhaps $100 million or more, contribute in some way to Major Bashinsky's death?

We will continue to examine that question.

(To be continued)

Bashinsky Lawsuit--Motion to Compel1


Anonymous said...



". . . So, not only was she a lobbyist, but she appears to have been a good one.

In fact, Janna Ryan comes from a long line of lawyers, according to the Daily Beast:

Janna’s grandfather, Reuel W. Little, a lawyer and rancher, was the American Party’s candidate for governor in 1970. The Oklahoman reported on its political blog that the American Party was organized as a third party to support the presidential candidacy of Alabama’s then-segregationist governor George Wallace, and that Little was instrumental in the party’s founding in Oklahoma in the 1960s. He died in 1993 at age 92…

A more likely and powerful role model is her late mother, Prudence Little, who graduated from Wellesley with honors and was first in her class at the University of Oklahoma law school.

* 14 Aug 2012 at 11:05 AM
* Posted in:
Election 2012, George Washington University Law School, Law Schools, Politics, Tax Law

Paul Ryan’s Wife Is A Housewife Now, But She Used To Be A Lawyer And A Lobbyist, By Elie Mystal

Anonymous said...

Bashinsky was a lawyer and must have known the "Operation Twist" agenda ... America's "LEADERS" have intentionally invested the entire nation into a military industrial complex. Forgetting the vital life truth: Earth life = INVENTION!

We invent life and it is not an already decided event.

? "Hon. Randall R. Rader" licensed to practice law? Where?! He is in the leadership position: Our sovereignty, INVENTING or call it "co-creation, the entrepreneurial spirit!"

". . . The State of Patent Litigation Chief Judge Randall R. Rader United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit E.D. Texas Judicial Conference

Yesterday I returned to my room to find this magnificent book entitled _AMERICA’S TEAM. To my surprise, the book was not about the Washington Redskins, but my real question is simple: After the results of the game last night, does the sender wish to stand and let me know that he sent the book?

Every year the President of the United States addresses Congress to assess the State of the Union.

Before I presume to address the state of patent litigation, I am anxious to confess that I come far short of presidential stature, but then you are not the Congress either. At current approval ratings, perhaps we are both better off.

As long as Congress continues their rolling approval of temporary budgets to prevent a governmental shutdown, I have the great privilege of presiding over patent disputes. As you can imagine, I have seen the state of patent litigation evolve over the past two decades and have also heard various reactions from some of the legends of our profession.
From the lawyer’s perspective, I can give the state of patent litigation in two words: NOT ENOUGH. For the corporate litigant, I can predict a similar two-word evaluation: TOO . . . EXPENSIVE; for the Patent Office: GOOD START; for the damages expert: DEMANDING SUPPLY; for the venture funding firm: PROFIT PROSPECT; for the legal academic: CRITICISM BONANZA; for the judges: NO COMMENT; from my perspective: NEEDS IMPROVEMENT!

I want to return for just a moment to the Shanghai question that should strengthen our determination to improve. I told you my smart aleck answer to the question, but in truth, I went on to give a more complete answer. I noted that far less than 4% of all patent cases reach the trial stage and many of those trials do not
employ a jury.

Nonetheless the prospect of trial and the specter of a jury—whether in Texas or any other state—can drive parties to settlement at unjustified rates. Settlement, by and large, is essential to the success of the US system of dispute resolution. Without settlements, the system would collapse under its own weight. Nonetheless, those settlements must occur on fair, neutral, and justified economic terms, not as the result of stratagems, threats, or fears. Otherwise our system is failing.

We all, bench and bar alike, owe our system more than we can ever repay. We know that our liberties are priceless and we know that we owe much of that liberty to our law enforcement and judicial systems. Moreover we know that our discipline—patent law—fosters prosperity and economic growth regardless of upturns or downturns in the market. Bearing that in mind, we have an obligation to pass this system on to our children and their children in as good or better shape than we found it. We need to ensure that patent law continues to serve its purpose of fostering innovation and that patent litigation does not become an unwieldy, unpredictable, and unaffordable burden on innovation.

Thus, I encourage each of us, bench and bar alike, to raise our vision and strengthen our resolve to make our courts and our patent litigation better in the future. We need to answer that Shanghai question in the future with a single uniform response: we do not allow our courts to be used for anything, except the pursuit of justice! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the reason Hazelrig visited Key West and the other son was to see if he had any knowledge. It sure was NOT a coincidence that he just showed up there especially since they were not close.I can not believe the mentality of some not being able to see what is going on. He went there to make sure of what the person knew and possibly make sure the person never talked. Can you think threat?x

Anonymous said...

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Launched in November, 2010, the International Series explores the search for best practices in legal systems around the world and how those practices--both in terms of governance and the practice of law--relate to innovation and the betterment of societies. The dialogue includes judges, business leaders, government representatives, and leading practitioners from around the globe.

Federal Circuit Bar Online Community

The Federal Circuit Bar Association is a national organization of attorneys, Federal ... practice or interest involve the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. ... The State of Patent Litigation: A Conversation with the Federal Circuit ... at the Eastern District of Texas Bench and Bar, Chief Judge Randall R. Rader ...

Anonymous said...

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Judicial Reform: Setting the Prairies Afire, Monroe G. McKay

EDITED BY Patrick B. McGuigan and


Washington DC: Free Congress Research and Education Foundation, Inc., 1981, Pp. ix, 382

Michigan Law Review
Vol. 81, No. 4, 1983 Survey of Books Relating to the Law (Mar., 1983), pp. 811-819
Published by: The Michigan Law Review Association Article Stable


jeffrey spruill said...

We know that Hazelrig has ties to both the gaming industry and to powerful figures in Alabama Republican Party circles.

Anonymous said...

oil would =jobs if not so much of these shananagans wasnt going on.