International Energy Agency:

Plan To Provide Legal Defenses to Participating U.S. Oil Companies

NSIAD-88-89BR: Published: Feb 8, 1988. Publicly Released: Feb 18, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Justice's (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) efforts to: (1) expand antitrust and breach-of-contract defenses to protect U.S. oil companies from possible legal suits for participating in the International Energy Agency's (IEA) Emergency Oil Sharing System (ESS); and (2) resolve the problem of foreign blockage of information important to the U.S. government's antitrust review of oil transactions with U.S. oil companies' foreign affiliates.

GAO found that: (1) an early DOJ and Department of Energy (DOE) draft plan provided protection for certain type 1 transactions, in which companies rearrange their schedules as they choose to meet a crisis; (2) problems arose in trying to ensure that companies reported to agencies so that they could fufill their antitrust monitoring responsibilities; (3) IEA approved an alternative plan, which supported changing ESS to permit certain type 2 transactions, in which companies interact with IEA, to occur at any time; (4) the alternative plan would protect companies for type 2 transactions only; and (5) under the alternative plan, companies would have to try to get foreign countries to remove their foreign blocking statutes, which prohibit them from providing information on their foreign affiliates. GAO also found that, although DOE and DOJ approved the plan, it cannot go into effect unless the President finds that an international energy supply emergency exists.

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