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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Goldman Sachs to Spar With Oilman in N.Y.

(CN) - A New York court should decide whether Goldman Sachs blocked a Denver multimillionaire from financing oil and gas projects, a New Jersey federal judge ruled.

In June 2012, Jack Grynberg and his companies - Pricaspian Development Corp. (PDC), RSM Production Corp. and GADECO LLC - sued the Goldman Sachs Group and Goldman Sachs International (GSI), alleging that they engaged in an international conspiracy to run him out of business.

Grynberg claimed that he had engaged in protected whistle-blowing with a successful False Claims Act lawsuit against British Petroleum and its affiliates, and that Goldman Sachs retaliated by conspiring to block him from accessing capital markets to obtain financing for oil and gas exploration and production projects in the U.S. and abroad from 2007 to 2010, as well as in the past year.

The federal complaint, filed in the District of New Jersey, alleged tortious interference with contract, tortious interference with economic opportunity and civil conspiracy under state law.

U.S. District Judge Claire Cecchi transferred the action to New York with an unpublished order Friday.

"According to GS Group, its credit and lending businesses and practices, which are at the heart of the parties' dispute, are located in New York City," Cecchi wrote. "Plaintiffs do not attempt to refute GS Group's assertion. In short, in the complaint, plaintiffs do not tie any of the events surrounding the alleged conspiracy, let alone substantial ones, to anything having occurred in New Jersey. Rather, based on a review of a factually detailed complaint, a substantial part of the allegedly wrongful conduct and events supporting plaintiffs' claims occurred in Colorado; Wyoming; North Dakota; Cameroon, West Africa; London, England; Houston, Texas: New York; and Mexico City, Mexico. Accordingly, the court finds that venue is improper in New Jersey under §1391(b)(2)."

Cecchi found no reason for the litigation to proceed in New Jersey.

"The complaint lacks any allegations that would even hint at the possibility that a substantial part of the events or omissions occurred in New Jersey," Cecchi wrote. "First, there are no allegations that any of plaintiffs' oil and gas projects involved property located in New Jersey. Second, the complaint contains no allegations that any of the nonparty financial or banking institutions were either located in New Jersey or representatives of these institutions, while in New Jersey, made any decisions to refuse plaintiffs financing based on defendants' alleged unlawful conduct. Finally, plaintiffs do not allege that defendants, while in New Jersey, participated in any meetings, made any decisions, or otherwise engaged in any activities related to their alleged refusal to secure financing or funding for plaintiffs or block other entities from providing same."

Upon removal to the Southern District of New York, Goldman Sachs can refile its motion to dismiss and Grynberg can refile his motions to amend and for substituted service, according to the ruling.

In a separate suit filed in Harris County Court in May 2012, Grynberg and Pricaspian accused ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips of having swiped the rights to a Kazakhstan oilfield. Grynberg said he had discovered the field and won a 40-year concession to help develop it, but that the oil giants participated in a scheme to pay "a $175 million criminal bribe ... to top Kazakh officials."

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