Spectrum Stores Inc. v. Citgo Petroleum Corp

Case Brief – Extra Credit Citation: SPECTRUM STORES INC, Plaintiffs – Appellants v. CITGO PETROLEUM CORPORATION; SAUDI ARABIAN OIL COMPANY, doing business as Saudi Aramco; Defendants-Appellees. UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT. 632 F. 3d 938 (2011) Facts: Gasoline retailers accused the OPEC member nations of fix pricing of crude oil and refined petroleum products in the US. The appellants argued that the district court mischaracterized their complaint as alleging a conspiracy among sovereign nations to fix prices via production.
They argued that the consolidated complaint alleges that commercial corporations, rather than governments, have taken over the production of crude oil. Under the act of state doctrine, “the courts of one country will not sit in judgment on the acts of the government of an-other, done within its own territory. ” The appellees have met their burden of demonstrating that negotiation of this suit would necessarily call into question the acts of foreign governments with respect to exploitation of their natural resources.
The court barred the claims, and had to consider foreign policy of the political branches, which was not codified in a treaty that the court was merely asked to interpret. By judging the case, the panel would need to reexamine critical foreign policy decisions Issue: Are the OPEC member nation’s oil companies committing antitrust conspiracy by price fixing of crude oil and petroleum products in the US?

Decision: For the foregoing reasons, the United States court declined to sit in judgment of the acts of the foreign states that comprise OPEC and urged that the district court’s judgment of dismissal be affirmed. Reason: The antitrust conspiracy alleged by plaintiffs arises from the Sovereign Acts of Foreign States. To rule for plaintiffs on their antitrust claims would require a court to rule on the legality of the Foreign Sovereign Acts of Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Russia. These cases do not trigger the territorial limitation or a possible commercial activity exception of the Act of State Doctrine.

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