Pioneer’s Scott Sheffield fires back at FTC allegations following $60 billion ExxonMobil deal

Mitchell Ferman, Kevin Crowley and Yiqin Shen, Bloomberg May 28, 2024

(Bloomberg) – Former Pioneer Natural Resources Co. Chief Executive Officer Scott Sheffield says federal regulators mischaracterized facts and wrongly vilified him in saying he tried to collude with OPEC to prop up crude prices, Fig. 1.

Fig. 1. Former Pioneer Natural Resources Co. CEO Scott Sheffield

Sheffield, a key figure in the rise of the U.S. shale industry, filed a request Tuesday with the Federal Trade Commission asking the agency to vacate its proposed consent order for Exxon Mobil Corp.’s $60 billion takeover of Pioneer.

“The FTC is wrong to imply that I ever engaged in, promoted or even suggested any form of anti-competitive behavior,” Sheffield said in a statement.

Earlier this month, the FTC said it would not sue to block Exxon’s takeover of Pioneer, provided that Sheffield be barred from the supermajor’s board. The agency said it found evidence Sheffield tried to communicate with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and others about oil pricing and output.

In an online statement, Sheffield and Pioneer addressed the FTC’s allegations and demonstrated that “they are based on a false narrative, mischaracterization of the facts and evidence, and a baseless interpretation of the applicable law.” Additionally, the statement called on the Commission to vacate the Proposed Consent Order and dismiss the proceeding without further action

Referring to the online comment, Mr. Sheffield said, “This document lays out in detail why the FTC is wrong to imply that I ever engaged in, promoted or even suggested any form of anti-competitive behavior.”

He continued, “It also shows how publicly and unjustifiably vilifying me will have a chilling effect on the ability of business leaders in any sector of our economy to address shareholder demands and to exercise their constitutionally protected right to advocate for their industries.”

The FTC was “straining” to find a reason to criticize Exxon’s deal for Pioneer, Sheffield’s lawyers wrote in the 23-page filing to the agency. Sheffield was examined under oath for four hours by the regulator on April 9 as part of its six-month investigation into the merger “but did not ask questions about his communications and gave him no opportunity to explain them,” according to the filing.

Sheffield’s lawyers refute the FTC’s claim that he exchanged hundreds of text messages with OPEC officials.

He had sent one text message to an OPEC official, but that was to connect former OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo with the Texas Railroad Commission “as part of an official government proceeding,” according to the filing. The others were “blast text messages” sending public information such as news stories to many recipients, Sheffield’s lawyers wrote.

World Oil has added context to paragraphs 5-7.

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