Service of Process Kills OPEC Antitrust Suit

     (CN) – A group accusing OPEC of fixing the price of gasoline cannot effect service on the petroleum exporters’ organization in the United States, a federal judge ruled.
     In their 2012 complaint against the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in 2012, conservative activist group Freedom Watch claimed that the group violates U.S. antitrust law by fixing the price of gasoline.
     Freedom Watch literally handed a copy of the summons and complaint to OPEC headquarters in Vienna, Austria, but OPEC asserted that this means of service was invalid without the express consent of OPEC’s secretary general.
     Though the D.C. Circuit affirmed last year that Freedom Watch’s efforts at service were invalid for failing to comport with Austrian law, Freedom Watch was given another chance to try to serve OPEC through its U.S. counsel, the law firm of White & Case.
     U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton closed off this attempt at service last week, finding that Freedom Watch failed to give a factual or legal basis for the relief it seeks – “service of OPEC through a method that does not comport with Austrian law.”
     Walton pointed to last year’s ruling from the federal appeals court, which said: “Even if service cannot be effectuated on OPEC through United States counsel without violating Austrian law, the district court could still authorize such service if it would ‘minimize’ offense to Austrian law.”
     OPEC persuaded the judge that service through U.S. counsel would result in an “affront to Austrian law.”
     Freedom Watch neither disputed this assertion, nor did it dispute that the OPEC Headquarters Agreement is an international agreement, according to the judgment.
     “Thus, Rule 4(f)(3) explicitly precludes the Court from considering Freedom Watch’s request to serve OPEC’s Counsel here in the United States because such service violates a controlling international agreement,” Walton wrote.
     “Consequently, based on the text of Rule 4(f)(3) coupled with in the absence of any contradicting authority or opposition presented by Freedom Watch as to the legitimacy of the status of this agreement as an international agreement, the Court is precluded from considering Freedom Watch’s proposed method of service,” Walton concluded.

%d bloggers like this: