Saudi Arabia hires former U.S. solicitor general to campaign against NOPEC Bill

Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s largest producer and de facto leader, has hired former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, now partner at law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, to lobby against a proposed U.S. legislation—the so-called NOPEC Act—that could pave the way to antitrust lawsuits in the U.S. against its national oil companies and the cartel.

According to a registration statement filed with the U.S. Department of Justice last week, Olson, who was Solicitor General of the United States during 2001-2004, and two other lawyers at the firm, have been retained by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to prepare and disseminate information materials.

The Embassy of Saudi Arabia has paid a US$250,000 fee for services, and according to Bloomberg. It would pay another US$100,000 per month if the law firm will lobby against the NOPEC bill in meetings with legislators.

The law firm will carry out a legal analysis of the bill and write an op-ed against it, and could also lobby Congress members and their staff, Bloomberg reports.

Forms of antitrust legislation aimed at OPEC were discussed at various times under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, but they both threatened to veto such legislation.­­­­­­

In May this year, the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels (NOPEC) Act was introduced again. Such legislation would make OPEC subject to antitrust law by removing a state immunity shield created by judicial precedent.

Because of a series of court decisions, U.S. antitrust enforcers are unable to protect American consumers and businesses from the direct harm caused by OPEC’s blatantly anti-competitive conduct.

The NOPEC Act directly addresses these decisions by amending procedural law and expressly authorizing the Justice Department to pursue antitrust litigation against OPEC members, should it choose to do so.

Shekhar Ghosh is consulting editor, Indoasiancommodities.com. He has edited and written for publications like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today, Outlook and many other international publications. He can be reached at shekhar.ghosh@indoasiancommodities.in.

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