Larry Klayman
Court rules OPEC is above the law
By Larry Klayman
June 15, 2015

My lawsuit, filed on behalf of Freedom Watch against the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, has just raised a fresh illustration of how Washington's elites, including federal judges – both Republicans and Democrats alike – routinely appear to put entrenched special interests ahead of the interests of the American people to potentially feather their own nests.

Freedom Watch took action to protect the American people from primarily Arab oil interests ripping them off at the pump. OPEC fixes the price of oil and manipulates oil production. This hikes up oil prices and directly harms American consumers and businesses, and it costs jobs. This is why I filed a price-fixing and market division case against OPEC under U.S. antitrust law.

The trial court judge, the Honorable Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, after "inexplicably" sitting on the case for years, initially dismissed our complaint, claiming that we had not properly served OPEC. OPEC had cut a deal with the Austrian government that it could not be served in any way in Vienna, which is where its headquarters is located. I had personally traveled to Vienna and served the complaint.

I appealed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned Judge Walton's ruling and sent it back to him with instructions to use his discretion to allow Freedom Watch to instead serve OPEC's attorneys, who have offices in Washington, D.C. In this way, the case could go forward.

Then, on June 4, 2015, after three years of inexcusable delay, incredibly Judge Walton once again dismissed the lawsuit, defying the ruling of the D.C. Circuit.

It is shocking what Judge Walton's defiance of the appeals court ruling would mean if allowed to legally stand. It means that no one can serve any lawsuit, ever, on OPEC and that these primarily Arab countries are immune from the reach of American law.

Seizing on this legally outrageous ruling, just last Friday attorneys for OPEC filed a motion to dismiss the case for good. They wrote in their motion to dismiss, "Simply put, Freedom Watch has not served – and cannot serve – process on OPEC in this case, and the Complaint should be dismissed with prejudice."

Incredibly, they are not claiming that Freedom Watch missed a step. They are arguing that a plaintiff in the United States "cannot" serve any lawsuit upon OPEC. Ever!

Needless to say, the extremely wealthy 12-member nations that form OPEC have friends in high places in official Washington, especially its largest member, Saudi Arabia. The Republican Party, in particular, has repeatedly shown itself to be deeply in the tank for Saudi interests at the expense of our own national security and economic interests. Remember how President George W. Bush, within hours of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and tragedy, whisked members of the Saudi royal family out of the country on American Air Force planes so the Federal Bureau of Investigation could not question them? Importantly, the Sept. 11 hijackers were overwhelming Saudi. And, W's father, President George H.W. Bush, is a charter member of the Carlyle Group, which years ago received a $1 billion investment from the Saudi Bin Laden family.

I am not saying that the judge here, or any particular official, has any formal relationship of any kind with OPEC, its member nations, its lobbyists or representatives. But it is impossible for any intelligent, well-informed person to ignore the great power and influence of OPEC and its member nations within the United States. And, Judge Walton, a minority, is a judicial appointment of President George W. Bush and a possible top candidate for the Supreme Court in a new Republican administration. Anyone who hopes to advance has to hesitate and think long and hard about whether or not to cross swords with the Washington Republican establishment.

To summarize, the appeals court initially reversed the dismissal by Judge Walton ordering him to consider alternative methods of service, such as on OPEC's Washington, D.C., attorneys given the impediment of Austrian law. You see, in general, there are always alternative procedures regularly available. In a routine lawsuit, if one cannot get personal service on a defendant that cannot be found, a court can authorize "service by publication" in which notice is published repeatedly in prominent newspapers. That is only one example.

But worst of all is the reasoning used: Given its special deal with OPEC, Austrian law prevents service in Vienna. Judge Walton thus ruled that there is no method available to serve OPEC. He therefore ruled that OPEC can never be sued and that it is above the law of the United States.

So now any country can place companies headquartered in their country beyond the reach of American law. That includes even foreign entities like OPEC – which has absolutely nothing to do with Austria. Just rent some office space in Austria, and, if you can reach an agreement with its government, you are beyond the reach of American law.Any country can similarly insulate any trade association, person or other entity operating within its territory. And why would Austria, which during World War II was annexed by Hitler as part of the Third Reich, want to relive its sordid past and now shelter largely Muslim OPEC members, which are anti-Semitic at best?

This is an outrage and gross injustice for the American people, not just Freedom Watch. There is no dispute that OPEC operates as a cartel to engage in price fixing, with extremely negative economic effects within the United States. It is well-established that U.S. antitrust laws apply to international trade.

By analogy, consider the latest news that private data of millions of federal employees has been hacked, apparently by a foreign country. Hackers in Russia and China routinely raid the private data of U.S. citizens. Is there no remedy for harm inside the United States launched from off shore?

That would become the new precedent if Freedom Watch did not again appeal Judge Walton's rulings. The idea that a foreign country can arbitrarily declare entities on its soil immune from the reach of American law is a false and obnoxious principle that is too important to let stand.

I am going back to the D.C. Circuit to have it order Judge Walton to obey its prior decision. In effect, the judge is in contempt of the appeals court. One has to wonder why he would stick his neck out this far. Could it be he wants a higher appointment with a future Bush administration, perhaps on the D.C. Circuit or even the Supreme Court?

While I like Jeb Bush, it's clear that his father and brother have always been close with the Saudi Royal family, and Saudi Arabia is the principal member of OPEC.

Such is the compromised and intellectually corrupt world of Washington, D.C., which the new Second American Revolution must ultimately address beyond the courts.

© Larry Klayman


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Larry Klayman

Larry Klayman, founder of Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch, is known for his strong public interest advocacy in furtherance of ethics in government and individual freedoms and liberties... (more)


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