This lawsuit charges certain current and former officers and/or directors of Ultra Petroleum with violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Ultra Petroleum is an oil and gas development company with its primary assets in the Jonah and Pinedale fields of southwest Wyoming’s Green River Basin. Over 80% of the Company’s revenues have historically been derived from the development and sale of natural gas. On May 14, 2020, Ultra Petroleum filed for bankruptcy protection. Ultra Petroleum is not named as a defendant in the action.
In April 2017, at the beginning of the Class Period, Ultra Petroleum exited a court-supervised reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. According to defendants, Ultra Petroleum was “in growth mode” at the point it exited the bankruptcy. Ultra stated that the it was prepared to maximize the value of its substantial oil and gas deposits (which they valued at $4.19 billion, which included $1.5 billion of proved undeveloped reserves) by way of ramped up production in 2017 and 2018, and that it was set to produce between 290 and 300 billion cubic feet equivalent (“Bcfe”) in 2017, with 25% production growth over these figures in 2018. Ultra represented that they had the financial and production flexibility to withstand even a low-commodity-price environment and was in preparation to ramp up well development with 10 rigs operating by 2018 on the back of an estimated $788 million capital budget. Accretive to this plan was the launch of a horizontal well drilling program, which Ultra executives claimed was set to greatly expand the production capabilities of the Ultra’s existing wells.
The complaint alleges that these and similar statements issued by Ultra during the Class Period were misleading and materially false. Throughout the Class Period, Ultra, inter alia: (i) materially overstated the value of Ultra oil and gas reserves; (ii) materially misrepresented their ability increase production as well as its financial flexibility; (iii) failed to disclose extreme sensitivity of Ultra to even a modest decline in natural gas prices; and (iv) concealed significant setbacks in the Ultra’s vaunted horizontal well drilling program.
Then, soon after exiting bankruptcy at the beginning in August 2017, Ultra Petroleum began issuing a series of revelations that demonstrated that it was not capable of increasing production by any meaningful amount and that its wells were worth a fraction of the values that had been previously represented. Finally, on August 9, 2019, Ultra Petroleum announced disappointing results for the second quarter of 2019, announcing that total revenues had decreased 18% for the quarter, that Ultra’s horizontal well program had been effectively halted, and that it was lowering its 2019 projected capital investments to a range of $260 million to $290 million and annual production to a range of 238 to 244 Bcfe. The price of Ultra Petroleum stock declined 31% on this news to just $0.09 per share, continuing to fall to just $0.01 per share, 99% below the stock’s Class Period high. On August 22, 2019, Ultra Petroleum stock was delisted. And in May 2020, the Ultra was forced to enter bankruptcy proceedings once more in order to seek a court-ordered reorganization.
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