In most competition law and economics textbooks, OPEC is presented as a prime illustration of the harmful effects of cartellization. Yet, it is also a frustrating example. OPEC's members are governments, over which Article 81 EC cannot apply.
The situation may nonetheless change, in so far as US antitrust law is concerned. As reported below, the US house of representatives Tuesday passed a bill authorizing the federal government to sue OPEC in US courts over alleged price fixing.
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The House of Representatives Tuesday passed a bill authorizing the federal government to sue OPEC in US courts over alleged price fixing, in the latest swipe at the cartel over skyrocketing oil prices.
The bill passed the Democratic-led House by 324 to 84 votes, on a day when the price of oil soared to a record above 129 dollars a barrel.
"The House today with a strong bipartisan and veto-proof margin voted to hold foreign oil cartels and Big Oil accountable," Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
President George W. Bush has however threatened to veto the legislation, although its margin of passage in the House suggested Democrats may get a two-thirds majority needed to sustain the largely symbolic measure.
"Instead of using a veto threat to shield cartels and Big Oil companies from accountability, the Bush Administration should work with the Congress to protect American consumers," Pelosi said.
The White House warned that the bill could discourage foreign investment in the US economy, subject US firms abroad to reprisals, and could end up limiting oil supplies, raising prices and threatening US jobs.
The bill would allow the US Justice Department to subject OPEC member nations to the same anti-trust laws as US firms face.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which produces 40 percent of the world's oil, comprises Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.
Democratic White House candidate Hillary Clinton has repeatedly threatened to amend anti-trust law to confront OPEC, and promised to tackle the group through the World Trade Organization (WTO), if elected president.
The next GCLC Lunch Talk will take place on 23 May. A. Verheyden (Jones Day) and S. Ohlhoff (WilmerHale) will discuss the recent CFI ruling in Deutsche Telekom v. Commission. See below for registration form.
Over the past decade, EC competition law has undergone successive substantive reforms. Whilst most of the legal and economic issues arising from their implementation have now been settled, a new wave of reforms, which could potentially remould the institutional architecture of the EC competition system, is now on the table.
These reforms cover areas including the promotion of private enforcement, settlements and leniency applications for hardcore infringements, commitment decisions, market inquiries, informal regulation through guidelines and guidance letters. The seminar will take a fresh look at the development of alternative enforcement techniques.
High-profile academics, senior officials and prominent practitioners in this domain have been invited to discuss the rationale underlying these reforms and, more importantly, their likely legal and practical consequences.
All participants to the conference will receive a document folder which will include the papers prepared for the conference, as well as a full set of relevant materials.