Senate Democrats Demand DOJ Investigate Big Oil for Price-Fixing Scandal

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Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer led 23 Democratic Senators in calling for an investigation by the Justice Department into allegations of price fixing by major oil companies.

The senators demanded in their letter that a full investigation be conducted into any possible violations by the industry of the Sherman Act (1890), the law prohibiting monopolies and anticompetitive arrangements. The senators cite the recent allegations made by the Federal Trade Commission that former Pioneer Natural Resources CEO Scott Sheffield had colluded with OPEC on price-fixing activities.

The FTC approved ExxonMobil’s acquisition of Pioneer Natural Resources for $60 billion on condition that Sheffield, a former CEO who retired in 2023, but retained his seat on the board of directors of Pioneer, would not be a member of the board of the new entity. Sheffield’s lawyers have called the allegations of the FTC “a false narrative… and a fanciful interpretation of the applicable laws.”

In their letter, the Democrats stated that “from pre-pandemic to present day, collusion in the oil industry may have contributed to a 49% decline in the U.S. growth rate of oil production.” The collusion of Pioneer and its coconspirators may have increased fuel costs for the average American household by $500 per vehicle annually. This is a tax that is especially burdensome to lower-income families. Western oil majors have collectively made more than $300 billion over the past two years. This is a huge surge in profits that market experts say cannot be explained by the increased production costs due to the pandemic.

The letter was written by Democratic Senators. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Richard Blumenthal, (Conn.), Cory Booker, (N.J.), Sherrod brown (Ohio), Maria Cantwell, (Wash.), Bob Casey, (Pa.), Catherine Cortez Masto(Nev.), Tammy Duckworth(Ill.), Dick DurbinIll.), John FettermanPa.), Kirsten Gilibrand (N.Y.), Mazie Hiroo (Hawai Ed Markey (Mass. ), Chris Murphy, Jacky Rosen in Nevada, Brian Schatz from Hawaii, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Tina Smith from Minnesota. Sheldon Whitehouse, Independent Senator Bernie Sanders and Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) are all members of the Massachusetts Senate.

Whitehouse, who is one of the most vocal critics in the Senate of the oil and gas industry, has also asked the Justice Department recently to review the findings of a Senate Budget Committee report that alleged a campaign to spread misinformation by the industry about climate change. The companies have denied all wrongdoing.