House Passes Bill Authorizing Antitrust Suits Against OPEC


On May 20, 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Gas Price Relief for Consumers Act of 2008, a bill that would allow the Department of Justice to sue members of OPEC for violations of U.S. antitrust laws. The bill also establishes an antitrust task force within the Department of Justice to monitor and investigate anti-competitive behavior in the oil industry. The bill, which passed the House by a vote of 324 to 84, adds a new section to Sherman Act explicitly prohibiting a foreign state, or its agency or instrumentality, from acting collectively or in combination with another foreign state to limit the production or distribution of oil, set or maintain the price of oil or "otherwise take any action in restraint of trade for oil, natural gas, or any petroleum product." In addition, the bill specifically authorizes the Department of Justice to bring suit against foreign states for collusion on oil supply and prices, and suspends the application of sovereign immunity and the act of state doctrine in any action brought by DOJ under the bill. Although previous versions of the bill have failed to pass in recent years, the dramatic rise in gas prices in recent months appears to have motivated the House to pass this year's version. The Senate has yet to vote on the bill. President Bush has already stated that he plans to veto the bill.