632 F.3d 938 (5th Cir. 2011), 09-20084, Spectrum Stores, Inc. v. Citgo Petroleum Corp.
|Citation:||632 F.3d 938|
|Opinion Judge:||E. GRADY JOLLY, Circuit Judge:|
|Party Name:||SPECTRUM STORES, INC.; Major Oil Company, Inc.; W.C. Rice Oil Company; Fast Break Foods, LLC, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. CITGO PETROLEUM CORPORATION; Saudi Arabian Oil Company, doing business as Saudi Aramco; Saudi Petroleum International, Inc.; Aramco Services Company; Saudi Refining, Inc.; Motiva Enterprises, LLC; Petroleos De Venezuela SA; PDV Am|
|Attorney:||William T. Gotfryd, Arthur T. Susman, Susman, Heffner & Hurst, L.L.P., Chicago, IL, for Plaintiffs-Appellants. Lauren Blair, Pedersen & Houpt, P.C., Chicago, IL, John A. Cochrane, Naples, FL, James Bernard Sloan, Lake Forest, IL, for Fast Break Foods, LLC. William A. Isaacson, Hamish PM Hume (arg...|
|Judge Panel:||Before JOLLY, WIENER, and STEWART, Circuit Judges.|
|Case Date:||February 08, 2011|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit|
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Appeals from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
This case involves two class actions brought by gasoline retailers against oil production companies (most of which are owned in whole or in part by OPEC member nations), alleging antitrust violations. After consolidation of the suits for disposition
of pre-trial matters, the oil production companies moved to dismiss. The district court granted dismissal on the ground that disposing of the case on the merits would require the court to pass judgment on the actions of other sovereign nations, which is proscribed by the act of state doctrine. Alternatively, the district court held that dismissal was also warranted by the political question doctrine. The gasoline retailers appealed.
Because the political question doctrine is jurisdictional, we address it first. When we do so, we discern that the complaints before us effectively challenge the structure of OPEC and its relation to the worldwide production of petroleum. Convinced that these matters deeply implicate concerns of foreign and defense policy, concerns that constitutionally belong in the executive and legislative departments, we conclude that we lack jurisdiction to adjudicate the claims. We hold alternatively that the complaints seek a remedy that is barred by the act of state doctrine, that is, an order and judgment that would interfere with sovereign nations' control over their own natural resources. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment dismissing the complaints.
Several U.S. gasoline retailers and other purchasers of petroleum products allege Sherman Act and Clayton Act violations by oil production companies. The Spectrum Appellants1 sued Citgo Petroleum Corporation (Citgo); the Consolidated Appellants2 sued the Saudi Aramco Appellees, 3 the Citgo Appellees,4 the Lukoil Appellees,5 and Motiva Enterprises, LLC (Motiva).6 Five suits from different districts were consolidated in the Southern District
of Texas for disposition of pre-trial matters. At the time of the appealed-from decision, only two live complaints were before the district court.7 The Spectrum Appellants decided to stand on their original complaint, while the Consolidated Appellants chose to file an amended, consolidated class-action complaint in place of their individual complaints.
The claims raised by Appellants challenge the traditional structure of international energy policy. The global economy is driven by petroleum-based products, and countries with bountiful petroleum resources have attempted to secure the best market prices for their crude oil. With this goal in mind, several oil-rich nations formed the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (" OPEC" ) in the 1960s.8 OPEC's official mission is " to coordinate and unify the petroleum policies of its Member Countries and ensure the stabilization of oil markets in order to secure an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consumers, a steady income to producers and a fair return on capital for those investing in the petroleum industry." See Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC: Our Mission, http:// www. opec. org/ opec_ web/ en/ about_ us/ 23. htm (last visited December 30, 2010).
In the years since OPEC's inception, its members have developed nationally owned oil production companies, and these companies have formed and acquired subsidiaries, many of which operate within the United States. OPEC member nations attend periodic meetings at the organization's headquarters in Vienna, Austria to formulate policy. In recent years, some privately owned corporations have begun attending OPEC meetings. The Appellants in this case allege that the national oil companies, as well as their subsidiaries, have conspired with OPEC member nations to fix prices of...
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