Lawsuit Connects CITGO with OPEC "Price Fixing" Allegations

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Lawsuit Connects CITGO with OPEC "Price Fixing" Allegations

WASHINGTON -- Earlier this week, a group of plaintiffs that purchase CITGO's petroleum products filed a federal price-fixing lawsuit against the company, claiming that the company participated in an alleged price fixing conspiracy with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The plaintiffs, who directly purchase gasoline, asphalt, lubricants, numerous petrochemicals, motor oil and other refined products from CITGO, claim that because CITGO is owned by PDVSA, the Venezuelan-run oil company, and Venezuela is a member of OPEC, CITGO is a tool to bring anticompetitive pricing to U.S. consumers.

"Venezuela and the OPEC conspiracy, using CITGO as a tool of its unlawful scheme, have thus entered United States territory for the purpose and with the effect of bringing to fruition their unlawful scheme to sell oil-based products to American consumers at anticompetitive prices," the lawsuit stated. The organization's member nations and related companies, such as CITGO, collect "unprecedented monopoly profits" at the expense of American consumers, the lawsuit claims.

The suit is brought under Section 1 of the Sherman Act and Sections 4 and 16 of the Clayton Act, and charges the company with participating with OPEC's alleged price fixing, providing illegal assistance to OPEC and implementing Venezuela's and OPEC's price fixing in the U.S. It also stated that the company provided OPEC, through member nation Venezuela, technical services and information to assist the organization with fixing prices at anticompetitive levels. In addition, it cited that CITGO's current board members Bernard Mommer and former director Luis Vierma participated in the development of OPEC's Long-Term Strategy while on the board of CITGO.

David McCollum, spokesman for CITGO, told CSNews Online that the company is "still studying the allegations" of the lawsuit, but declined to comment further.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Plaintiffs seek damages incurred as a result of OPEC's alleged price-fixing and to enjoin future illegal conduct by CITGO. They also request an award of punitive damages.