Senate Democrats accuse oil companies of collusion with OPEC, demand DOJ investigation

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., led a group of 23 Democratic senators who wrote letters urging the Justice Department to take steps to prevent and prosecute alleged collusion and price fixing between the oil industry and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The letter comes after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) gave the green light to ExxonMobil’s $60 billion acquisition of Pioneer Natural Resources but blocked former Pioneer CEO Scott Sheffield from serving on Exxon’s board amid allegations he attempted to collude with OPEC to raise oil prices.

“These reports are alarming and lend credence to the fear that corporate avarice is keeping prices artificially high,” the Democratic senators wrote. “This is also a national-security concern: this alleged collusion with OPEC may have served to enrich countries like Iran and Russia that are actively seeking to undermine the United States and our allies.”

“The federal government must use every tool to prevent and prosecute collusion and price fixing that may have increased gasoline, diesel fuel, heating oil, and jet fuel costs in a way that has materially harmed virtually every American household and business. We therefore urge the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the oil industry, to hold accountable any liable actors, and to end any illegal activities,” they added.

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The FTC said on May 2 that Sheffield coordinated efforts with U.S. shale producers to lower output and raise energy prices by using his influence in the industry “to align oil production across the Permian Basin in West Texas and New Mexico with OPEC+,” the regulator said at the time.

Sheffield asked the FTC to dismiss the ban earlier this week, with his counsel Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton saying, “At no time did government officials and Mr. Sheffield exchange competitively sensitive information.”

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Oil Wells Energy Market

The American Petroleum Institute pushed back on the Democratic senators’ calls for a broader investigation of the oil industry for collusion and price fixing.

“The United States is the largest crude oil producer, leading the world in new oil production since 2020. This increase in American energy production has been a stabilizing force for consumers here at home and around the world — especially in the face of supply cuts from OPEC,” API spokesperson Andrea Woods said in a statement.

“While we don’t know the details of the FTC’s allegations against one individual, the reality is that U.S. producers answered the call to meet growing energy demand, despite a spate of inflationary policies from this administration that threaten our long-term energy security,” Woods added.

FOX Business’ Chase Williams and Nicole McManus and Reuters contributed to this report.

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