An economist is suing the OPEC cartel for around 50 Swiss francs. But the case could cost the participants in the oil cartel millions, if not billions.
It’s a David versus Goliath kind of lawsuit. A German economist and former top official is taking on OPEC.
The 44-year-old is now a professor at the French economics university HEC and no longer head of unit at the German Ministry of Economics and Finance.
The talk is of Armin Steinbach and the political thriller is told by the German “Handelsblatt” in its latest issue.
According to the report the economics professor sued the Saudi state oil company Saudi Aramco and other Arab oil companies, as well as OPEC, in Berlin.
He wants to bring the oil industry’s powerful Gulf Arabs, Africans and South Americans to their knees at the Berlin Regional Court and ask them to pay up because, according to the statement of claim, they have clearly committed antitrust violations with their policies.
On the one hand, Steinbach points to studies that prove that the OPEC cartel has significantly increased the price of oil.
Collection of evidence
In addition the economist collected his fuel bills for a motor scooter over a period of years, which now serve him as a cause of action. He wants to use them to force the cartel to pay damages for market manipulation and to get 50 euros back.
Certainly, Steinbach is not concerned with the money, but with bigger issues, or, as the paper puts it, “fundamental issues.”
“If the lawsuit succeeds, it would be judicially recognized for the first time that OPEC is a cartel,” Steinbach told the newspaper. “Then every German could sue OPEC for damages,” the economist, who is also a legal scholar, continued.
So there is a lot at stake for OPEC. To be sure, he said, it was unlikely that the Saudi & Co. would respond to the claims. But the court could order the companies’ assets in Europe to be seized.
The companies could not count on immunity, as has been the case in the U.S., for example, because they are organized under private law. The fact that they are state-controlled companies does not change this, the court also said.
Germans on dry land
Legally-independent companies could be held responsible. This threatens the collapse of the entire structure on the territory of the EU. For the Germans, who are suffering from a lack of oil anyway, the legal dispute, which is only in its initial phase, could well become unpleasant.
The oil multinationals could simply turn off the tap to the ‘Great Canton in the North.’
In the meantime activities are also underway in the U.S.A. to lift the immunity of OPEC and the implementing companies. Then market manipulation would also no longer be possible. However, such attempts have always failed so far because American politicians have always feared retaliatory measures such as expropriation of U.S. corporations.
But now, contrary to the wishes of the Americans, the Saudi’s have allied themselves with the Russians and recently curbed production so that the price of oil remains high or continues to rise.
And the latter, in the eyes of muula.ch, is entirely in line with Steinbach’s legal dispute, even though millions, if not billions, in government revenues are at stake here.
In any case, Switzerland signed an agreement with Germany last Tuesday, for the cooperation of competition authorities, as the administration in Bern surprisingly announced.
The agreement will allow the Swiss Competition Commission and the German Federal Cartel Office to efficiently enforce competition law in cross-border cases in the future.
As a result, it will contribute to the better protection of competition in Switzerland and Germany, according to the communiqué.
Novartis with headache
In most cases, competition issues stop at national borders. However, Germany and Switzerland no longer want to accept this and want to prevent or make market manipulation more difficult through this cooperation.
There was already cooperation in the Novartis case, which muula.ch also reported on. Perhaps with the new cooperation, the Berlin antitrust proceedings against OPEC will also be applied in this country. After all, the Swiss are feeling the same way about the so-called cartel’s manipulation of oil prices.