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Former Pioneer CEO Hits Back at FTC Over OPEC Collusion Allegations

The former chief executive of Pioneer Natural Resources has hit back at the Federal Trade Commission for “scapegoating” him with allegations of OPEC collusion.

The FTC alleged that Sheffield had colluded with OPEC and OPEC+ members to limit production and increase oil prices in comments on its approval of Exxon’s acquisition of Pioneer. The allegations shook the shale oil world, where several large consolidation deals are awaiting the trade watchdog’s approval.

“The FTC is wrong to imply that I ever engaged in, promoted or even suggested any form of anti-competitive behaviour,” Sheffield said this week in his first public response to the allegations that also included a condition to ban him from joining the board of the combined company to get approval for the deal.

“Publicly and unjustifiably vilifying me will have a chilling effect on the ability of business leaders in any sector of our economy to address shareholder demands and to exercise their constitutionally protected right to advocate for their industries,” Sheffield also said, as quoted by the Financial Times.

Sheffield submitted an explanation of events to the FTC this week, calling on the regulator to withdraw its charges against him.

“They couldn’t find anything wrong with the merger — because the merger only represents 11 percent of the oil in the Permian Basin — so they scapegoated me,” Sheffield told the Financial Times.

Sheffield is not the only oil executive who feels this way even if he was the only target for the regulatory attack. Many have called the FTC’s allegations against the former Pioneer CEO unfair and misdirected, per the FT.

In addition to the outrage, there has been real concern in the industry that M&A deals will be scrutinized even more closely by the FTC if the Sheffield case is any indication. The FT suggested some viewed this as “a crackdown” on the energy industry ahead of the November vote.

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By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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