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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and nearly two dozen Democrats have called on the Justice Department to investigate Big Oil for alleged collusion and price fixing. The lawmakers expressed concern about allegations that a Texas oil tycoon attempted to conspire with OPEC to inflate oil and gasoline prices, harming American households and businesses. They are urging the DOJ to hold accountable those responsible for any illegal activity in the industry, including investigating other oil companies for potential collusion with OPEC.

The letter from Senate Democrats, led by Schumer and signed by 22 other senators, shows a growing push to hold Big Oil accountable for alleged anticompetitive behavior. This comes after the Federal Trade Commission accused a Texas oil producer CEO of attempting to collude with OPEC to keep oil supply low, resulting in higher gas prices for consumers. The FTC found evidence of private conversations between the CEO and OPEC officials discussing pricing and production, leading to artificially low oil output and increased gas prices.

Schumer and his colleagues argue that industry collusion may have contributed to significantly lower US oil production and a 94 cent per gallon increase in gas prices since before the pandemic, costing the average household up to $500 per car annually. While the FTC has taken action against the Texas oil producer CEO, the lawmakers believe that only the DOJ can fully address and prosecute anticompetitive behavior in the oil sector. They highlight the potential fines under the Sherman Act for corporations and individuals found guilty of price fixing.

The CEO, Scott Sheffield, has vehemently denied the FTC’s allegations and called for the agency to rescind its order against him. Sheffield claims that the FTC has mischaracterized the facts and evidence, stating that he never engaged in or promoted anti-competitive behavior. He believes that publicly vilifying him will have a negative impact on business leaders’ ability to address shareholder demands and advocate for their industries. Despite Sheffield’s denial, the pressure from lawmakers and regulators to investigate potential collusion in the oil industry continues to grow.

In response to the allegations, Schumer and his colleagues are calling on the DOJ to protect consumers and small businesses from potential petroleum-market collusion. They emphasize the importance of seeking restitution and imposing penalties supported by the facts and the law to deter anticompetitive behavior in the oil sector. The lawmakers are urging the DOJ to fully investigate the allegations of price fixing, hold accountable any responsible parties, and ensure that consumers are not unfairly harmed by industry collusion. The outcome of this investigation could have significant implications for the oil industry and gas prices in the United States.

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