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Ex-Pioneer chief asks FTC to reverse Exxon board ban

  • : Crude oil, Natural gas
  • 24/05/28

The former chief executive officer of Pioneer Natural Resources accused of attempting to collude with Opec nations over oil production and prices, said he was wrongly targeted by the US anti-trust regulator.

Scott Sheffield, the oil and gas industry veteran who founded Pioneer in 1997 and stepped down at the end of 2023 when ExxonMobil said it would acquire the company, said the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was "wrong" to imply that he had ever "engaged in, promoted or even suggested any form of anti-competitive behavior." He wants the FTC to rescind a requirement that he not take a seat on ExxonMobil's board as a condition for approving the $64.5bn deal.

The FTC "publicly and unjustifiably vilifying me" will have a "chilling" effect on the ability of other business leaders to address shareholder demands and advocate for their industries, Sheffield said in a statement.

The regulator alleged that Sheffield had exchanged hundreds of text messages with Opec officials discussing crude pricing and output, and that he sought to align production across the Permian with the cartel. In a filing to the FTC Sheffield argues this is a false narrative, that he had "only sporadic communication with Opec officials" and that because many of them were government officials, not just corporate, the communications fell outside the scope of the Sherman Act, which sets the basis for most US anti-trust laws.

The filing called on the commission to vacate the proposed consent order and dismiss the proceeding without further action.

ExxonMobil had agreed, "without any admission of liability or findings of fact," to the proposed consent order that would keep Sheffield off the board, his lawyers said. And Sheffield had no opportunity to defend himself before the ExxonMobil board either.

The FTC said today it stood by the allegations.

"There is no question that Mr. Sheffield publicly urged Texas oil producers to limit production, all while having regular, private back-and-forth communications with senior OPEC representatives over a period of years," said spokesman Douglas Farrar.

By Stephen Cunningham

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