The high road: Mineral rights firm takes pride in ethics award

Robert Francis

When Clear Fork Royalty received the 2014 Greater Tarrant Business Ethics Award from the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, those who knew the company – an oil and gas mineral rights and royalty acquisition company – weren’t surprised. But even some of the judges were surprised that there was a company in this field that could compete for the award.

“A lot of companies talk about having a strong corporate culture; Clear Fork showed that they not only talk about theirs but they actively manage it,” said Shannon Shipp, the Texas Christian University M.J. Neeley School of Business professor who chaired the awards judging committee. “Culture is transmitted through stories and shared history,” said Shipp. “Clear Fork has many stories about when it acted ethically and went above and beyond the legal requirements. It also clearly showed a process whereby new hires are given those examples and helped to develop the same sense of ethical action.” Clear Fork is a sister company to Pendragon Oil, an exploration and production company that leases, drills and operates wells throughout Texas and Louisiana.

Clear Fork began in 2009 to acquire mineral rights and royalties. The company is now in 23 states, operating in 500-plus counties across the country. There is some crossover between the two companies, but Clear Fork itself has just under 15 employees. Joseph DeWoody serves as president of Clear Fork Royalty. His team has assembled a vast, diversified portfolio of oil and gas interests in multiple producing and prospective basins across the United States. A lot of mineral rights and royalty companies have done that, too, but DeWoody says that, from the start, he wanted Clear Fork to be different. “First, our initial contact with a seller of these assets is done in a more forthright fashion,” he said. “We don’t send drafts or fake checks or blast our offer amounts on our letters telling them something we could not achieve.”

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The company’s letters simply ask if the potential client has a need for a lump sum of cash for its monthly payments. “If they say they do, we pride ourselves on being completely transparent,” he said. DeWoody also says the company pays quickly once an agreement is reached. “Speed is often a foremost concern. Money is something they want right now and we do it all in a courteous manner,” he said. And unlike many other companies in the royalty field, Clear Fork clearly has the company’s physical address, not a post office box number, on its correspondence. “If they’re local, we have a lot of people who come up here to sign documents,” he said. “We want to show we have nothing to hide.”

DeWoody attributes much of the emphasis on honesty and ethics to his parents, Joseph and Patricia DeWoody, but also credits his experience in sports, particularly playing football for Southwest Christian in Fort Worth and Baylor in Waco. A few months back, as stories of wayward sports figures were making headlines, DeWoody wrote an editorial published by the Fort Worth Business Press pointing out that while sports figures in trouble will always make the headlines, there are those out there making a difference. “I recently joined the board of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an organization that played a big part of my life in college,” he said. “I’ve seen the involvement of coaches and athletes and I’ve seen it change lives. I thought it was important to showcase the good side of college athletics, the guys taking their Wednesday nights and spending an hour and a half in Bible study and not out causing trouble that you often hear about in the news. “These are students, athletes that are taking their spring breaks to build homes and not sitting on a beach with a beer bong. I feel like they need to be highlighted, too.” DeWoody’s career at Baylor occurred just before the school became the football powerhouse it is now. His favorite memory? “When we beat Texas A&M in 2004,” he said. “It’s a common occurrence now, but then, they were No. 16 in the country and we beat them in overtime.” As for Clear Fork, DeWoody sees plenty of growth ahead. “We’re headed in a good direction,” he said. “We have a good team here and we’re going to keep acquiring and building our portfolio and continue to participate in the energy revolution that is going on right now.”