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Steptoe & Johnson PLLC: DOJ Ramps Up Interest in Oil and Gas Industry

By Gordon H. Copland, Russell D. Jessee and Nathaniel I. Holland

Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division reached an agreement with two natural gas producers who each paid fines of over one-half million dollars to settle claims of anticompetitive collaboration in lease purchasing.  Recently, the DOJ has continued to investigate suspected anticompetitive activity in the oil and gas industry, while European competition regulators are investigating suspected oil company collusion overseas.  

Now, SEC filings reveal that the DOJ is conducting a civil investigation of “pressure pumping services.”  Major frac players Baker Hughes and Halliburton are reported to have confirmed receiving civil investigative demands from the DOJ.  

In addition, private plaintiffs are beginning to bring suits against major oil and gas operators under the Sherman and Clayton Acts for alleged damages due to anticompetitive industry action.  Industry participants also may find themselves as plaintiffs in competition suits as landowners collude in potentially anticompetitive ways.

Steptoe & Johnson’s competition law group has been actively monitoring the DOJ’s renewed interest in oil and gas operations and other competition developments in the oil and gas industry.  The group is preparing a webcast to assist our clients with identifying potential antitrust issues in their operations and agreements.

Watch for an invitation to participate in our oil and gas completion law webcast in the near future.

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