Filled up your car with gasoline lately? Bet you’re glad you don’t live in California, where Forbes reported today the average price is $4.66 a gallon.
But you’re also probably not happy with OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and Larry Klayman, founder of Freedom Watch USA, is on your side.
He filed a lawsuit against OPEC, accusing the organization of “economic terrorism,” and he just recently filed an argument against OPEC’s demand that the lawsuit be thrown out.
Klayman’s claim of conspiracy against American consumers by OPEC is contained in the lawsuit he filed in federal court in Washington. Freedom Watch USA, a public interest organization, charges that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries engages in illegal price fixing and market division by artificially inflating crude prices.
Klayman said the member nations “specifically and intentionally limit barrels of oil that each country produces,” causing the price to rise.
His latest filing explains that OPEC’s “restraint of trade, which directly extends to American soil and has been perpetrated in a blatant violation of U.S. antitrust laws, must finally be ordered to cease and desist.”
OPEC has argued a technicality, claiming that it wasn’t served properly with the notice of the lawsuit.
However, Klayman personally traveled to Austria to ascertain that officials at OPEC were served, and he said the procedure followed all ordinary rules and requirements.
“Defendant now claims that service of process was not proper in an effort to escape liability. Yet defendants cannot be allowed to immunize themselves from U.S. antitrust law. If defendant chooses to play ball in our court, it must play by our rules. Foreign law cannot – and does not – trump U.S. law,” Klayman said.
“Defendants concede that a summons and complaint were received by hand at OPEC’s headquarters, but mistakenly believe it was by Larry Klayman, counsel for plaintiff. … Defendants were served by someone who is not a party to this action,” Klayman explained to the court.
That OPEC got timely notification was documented, because some two weeks later, it asked for another two months to respond to a motion, he said.
“This court must … look to nothing but the facts of the case to determine whether OPEC is in violation of U.S. antitrust laws as plaintiff alleges. In order to do so, this case must respectfully be heard on its merits.
“Here, OPEC has been conspiring with its member companies and the distributors and sellers of gasoline within the United States in order to fix the price of gasoline, as well as divide markets, within the United States. Defendant sells crude oil and conspires with distributors and retailers within the United States in order to artificially inflate the price of oil and gasoline by limiting production, hampering distribution, fixing prices, and dividing markets,” Klayman wrote.
Klayman alleged in the original complaint that member nations of OPEC “specifically and intentionally limit barrels of oil that each country produces,” causing the price to rise.
“This amounts to illegal price fixing,” he said, as well as antitrust law violations.
“These artificially inflated crude oil prices fall hard on the backs of Americans, many of whom cannot afford to buy gasoline during these severely depressed economic times,” said Klayman, a former Justice Department lawyer.
As a government attorney in the Antitrust Division, Klayman participated in breaking up AT&T. Now he and Freedom Watch have launched a campaign against the 12 nations that work together on oil prices and production.
Klayman alleges leaders of both major U.S. political parties “line their pockets from big oil interests and are just sitting back and not doing anything.”
He also noted the federal government is not allowing the U.S. to increase its own oil production, and Barack Obama’s policies have discouraged oil discovery and drilling.
“This has led to more speculation on oil prices, causing them to rise. And the president’s policies regarding Iran also have contributed to the spike,” he said.
The complaint argues that without OPEC’s anti-competitive agreement, more oil would be in production, and the result would be lower prices.
“Even when OPEC members produce to the full extent of their capacity, they produce far less oil than they would were they operating in a competitive market, because they artificially restrict their production capacity as part of their price-fixing scheme,” the complaint alleges.
“The … nature of OPEC’s price-fixing conduct is further confirmed by its course of dealing with non-members. OPEC has met with these non-members and has secured their agreement to limit production and has thereby increased the price of gasoline and other petroleum products over competitive levels,” the complaint says.
Klayman previously brought legal action against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on behalf of torture victims, advancing the case against Iran to the point of obtaining a default judgment.
Klayman also won a nearly $2 million unpaid judgment against Cuban interests in 1996 over the shooting down of an airplane.
The new claim against OPEC alleges that “as a form of economic terrorism,” OPEC’s actions “are designed to severely harm the economics or strategic interests of the United States and Western Europe in particular.”
“The illegal conduct of the defendant, and its constituent members and co-conspirators, is thus intended at this time to also influence the American presidential and congressional elections of 2012 by destabilizing the economy to further their pro Islamic and communist agendas,” the complaint says.