A PYMNTS Company

Plaintiffs Seek Communications In Antitrust Case Against Pioneer

 |  May 9, 2024

Plaintiffs in an antitrust class action centered on oil prices have petitioned a federal judge in Nevada to compel Pioneer Natural Resources to disclose communications involving its former CEO Scott Sheffield, amid allegations of collusion with OPEC to manipulate oil output.

The request comes in the wake of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) approval of Exxon Mobil’s $64 billion acquisition of Dallas-based Pioneer, albeit with restrictions barring Sheffield from joining Exxon’s board. The FTC’s decision followed accusations that Sheffield attempted to collude with OPEC to limit oil and gas production, purportedly to bolster Pioneer’s profits, as reported by Reuters.

In the Nevada litigation, consumers contend that Pioneer, along with other energy firms, conspired to limit shale oil output, consequently inflating prices for various fuels, including retail gasoline, diesel, marine fuel, and residential heating oil.

The FTC, in its order against Sheffield, cited a variety of communication channels, including public statements, text messages, in-person meetings, WhatsApp conversations, and other exchanges during Sheffield’s tenure at Pioneer, allegedly aimed at aligning oil production in West Texas and New Mexico with OPEC objectives.

Attorneys representing the consumers emphasized the relevance of documents and materials provided to the FTC, asserting their critical importance in substantiating the core conspiracy allegations. These arguments were presented to Chief U.S. District Judge Miranda Du in Las Vegas, as per Reuters.

Although Pioneer has reportedly contested the request, plaintiffs anticipate the company will file a separate response with the court. In a prior statement addressing Sheffield’s actions, Pioneer maintained that there was no intention to circumvent competition laws or market principles.

Furthermore, Pioneer criticized the FTC’s complaint against Sheffield, asserting a misunderstanding of both U.S. and global oil markets, along with misinterpretations of Sheffield’s intentions. The company emphasized that Sheffield’s actions were not aimed at undermining competition but rather reflected a different interpretation of market dynamics.

Source: Reuters