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Total/Fina Must Cough Up $15 Million

DALLAS (CN) - Oil and gas giant Total/Fina will pay Uncle Sam $15 million to settle a complaint of knowingly underpaying royalties on natural gas from federal and Indian lands, the Justice Department said.

The Total/Fina group, the fifth-largest publicly traded oil and gas company in the world, was one of several defendants in a whistleblower/False Claims Act compaint filed by the late Harrold Wright in whcih the United States eventually intervened.

Total/Fina includes the former Elf Aquitaine, which Total bought in 2000.

The settlement resolves claims that Total deducted from royalties the cost of boosting gas up to pipeline pressures, improperly reported processed gas as unprocessed gas and engaged in other tricks to underpay royalties.

Parties to the settlement include Total Fina S.A., Total Minatome Corporation, Total Exploration Production USA Inc., Fina Oil and Chemical Company, Elf Exploration Inc., Total E&P USA Inc. and their affiliates.

Wright's heirs will receive $23,000 plus interest as their share of the settlement.

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