Former Houston Energy Company President Pleads Guilty to Illegal Kickback and Insider Trading Schemes

Former Houston Energy Company President Pleads Guilty to Illegal Kickback and Insider Trading Schemes

On March 15, Matthew Clark, 56, of Needville, Texas, entered a guilty plea regarding his involvement in illegal activities related to a kickback scheme and insider trading involving natural gas futures contracts. Clark, who previously served as the president of a Texas energy company, admitted to conspiring with others to direct his employer’s trades to Classic Energy LLC in exchange for illegal kickbacks, totaling more than $5.5 million.

Classic Energy LLC, owned and operated by Matthew Webb, 54, of Tiki Island, Texas, served as the brokerage firm involved in the illicit activities. Clark’s plea included his acknowledgment of misappropriating confidential information about his company’s planned commodities trades and using that information to benefit himself and his co-conspirators.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, highlighted the significance of the case: “When corporate insiders engage in insider trading and other deceptive trade practices for their own financial gain, they don’t just harm the company—they undermine the integrity of our financial markets.”

In addition to the kickback scheme, Clark was found guilty of engaging in prohibited commodities transactions and commodities insider trading. The predetermined counterparties for these trades included John Ed James, 54, of Katy, Texas, and Peter Miller, 49, of Puerto Rico. Clark, Webb, James, and Miller shared the net profits generated from these illegal trades.

Assistant Director Michael Nordwall of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division emphasized the commitment to pursuing those involved in such schemes, stating, “This plea should make it known to others that participate in illicit activity that threatens the integrity of our financial systems that there are consequences to your actions.”

Clark faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud count and 10 years in prison for each of the prohibited commodities transaction and insider trading counts. His sentencing is scheduled for June 24.

Webb, James, and Miller had previously pleaded guilty to various charges related to the case. Webb pleaded guilty in June 2021, while James and Miller entered their pleas in February 2021 and February 2022, respectively. They are awaiting sentencing.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI. U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani reiterated the importance of holding individuals accountable for such actions, stating, “It is important that commodity traders who buy and sell those contracts not engage in illegal and unfair practices.” Hamdani expressed the commitment of his office to preserve the integrity of the market and uphold public trust in U.S. markets.