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Suing OPEC

No lawsuit yet on this one, but the U.S. House of Representatives wants to make it legal for the United States to sue OPEC.

On May 20, 2008, the House approved legislation allowing the Justice Department to sue OPEC.

The new law would allow OPEC members such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela to be sued for their role in limiting oil supplies and working together to set crude prices.

If the bill turns into law, OPEC member behavior could be scrutinized based on U.S. antitrust laws, which explicity prohibit anti-competitive behavior and unfair business practices.

With gas prices at well over $4 per gallon in many parts of the country and no relief in sight, this is likely to get some public support. However, the Senate still has to approve the bill and the White House has threatened to veto the measure.

What about suing OPEC as an individual?

There's no reason you cannot do it.

Legal expert Spencer Waller Weber has written that "It is widely believed that sovereign immunity, the act of state doctrine and other special international defenses preclude suit against OPEC and its member nations."

After a thorough analysis of relevant laws, he concluded that "in fact there are no legal doctrinal barriers to such a suit by certain plaintiffs seeking certain kinds of relief..."

But before you run off to sue OPEC because it's costing you $60 to fill the gas tank, note that Waller concluded that "such action would be ineffectual, counterproductive, and against the overall interests of the US."


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