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A Different Kind of Power & Money Story

Wednesday, 4 Apr 2007 | 9:18 AM ET

OK, I admit. This blog post is not about a typical Power & Money story. It's not about hedge funds or private equity, or even about investing.

It's about your money, as a taxpayer, and the oil industry. It's about the power of one man, Bobby Maxwell, and the money one big oil company didn't pay the government.

Bobby Maxwell's job was to audit oil companies for the Department of the Interior. He made sure oil companies paid royalties they agreed to pay to the government, in exchange for the right to drill on public lands and in public waters. Those royalties are essentially based on the value of the oil they recoup. But during a routine audit of some Kerr-McGee leases, Maxwell noticed something unusual about how Kerr-McGee valued its oil, and therefore about how much they were paying -- and not paying-- to the government.

Eventually, as a private citizen, Maxwell sued Kerr-McGee. And he prevailed.

With all the debate in Congress about windfall profit taxes of Big Oil, you'd think making sure oil companies paid royalties they owe would be a top priority. But the oil royalty program has been called a mess and "dysfunctional" by lawmakers.

Interesting story? Tune in tonight to Business Nation at 10 p.m. on CNBCfor the full story.

It's not quite Power & Money, but it's a great story, and it's going to be a great show.

Questions? Comments? PowerandMoney@cnbc.com