Bob’s Blog – An Ethical Equation

I was watching a Rick Shields video on a chip shot. He was talking about the very dramatic lob/moon shots taken by the pros. He described them as high talent, high risk.

In a presentation on ethics at the November PBLA luncheon, Kyle Young (Acquisitions Manager for the Piedra Companies, where he is responsible for the origination and commercial evaluation of leasehold and mineral/royalty acquisitions throughout the Permian Basin. Prior to that he worked with Laredo Petroleum, Nexen Petroleum, and JP Morgan. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin and his Juris Doctor from St. Mary’s University School of Law. Mr. Young is a licensed Texas attorney and Certified Professional Landman) described that the ethical issues in landman work weren’t always black and white, and offered a similar resolve. Regardless of what service you provide to the process, don’t make the call yourself, avoid the high talent/high risk path, ask for help.

In a follow-up conversation he identified his preferred process. Identify the issue, with all the facts and your opinion, and let the client make the call. Ultimately (absent professional negligence or malice) the client takes all the risk, and a landman making the call on a potentially unclear interpretation of contract verbiage dissociates the decision from the risk of loss; always a bad idea. The topic of conversation was establishing the business value of an ethical services provider. It’s a tricky question, and difficult to quantify beyond a binary “don’t do business with any party who by experience or reputation seems unethical”.

This called to mind a conversation I had with David Vaughn, a founder of Texhoma Land Consultants, about the origin story of his company. Working as a landman in the 80’s he was faced time and again with business relationships troubled by uneven ethics. The landman profession was plagued by a reputation for abusing access to information, and using it for personal gain. The brokers who contracted independent land managers often closed up shop in the dark of night, leaving contractors in the lurch and hanging clients with uncompleted work. Texhoma came to be when David asked (I paraphrase) “What if we just do it right, treat everybody fairly, act with transparency, demand ethics and professionalism, and studiously avoid conflicts of interest?” 30 years on, through the chaos and downturns, it’s proven to be a model for steady success.

At TexhomaLand we always identify judgement issues for our clients. We also provide transparent access to the status of project objectives available through our LandPortal, which ties gathered information and documents to the GIS depiction of your project. If you have concerns, or want to avoid them, contact me at bobrahm@texhomalp.com and I’ll show you how we can solve the variables in your ethical equation.

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