A scholarly footnote for the growing body of petroleum literature, which details how and why the Justice Department's...


THE OIL CARTEL CASE: A Documentary Study of Antitrust in the Cold War Era

A scholarly footnote for the growing body of petroleum literature, which details how and why the Justice Department's protracted antitrust action against the top international off companies became a casualty of the Cold War. In 1953 federal prosecutors formally accused America's Exxon, Gulf, Mobil, Standard Oil of California, and Texaco, plus Europe's British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell, of violating antitrust law. The so-called Seven Sisters were charged with conspiring since the 1920s to regulate the flow of Mideast crude and to allocate world markets including lucrative US outlets. Proceedings dragged on without a trial for 15 years. Three of the five defendants within the government's jurisdiction signed innocuous consent agreements; charges against two (Mobil and Socal) eventually were dropped altogether. Using official files released through the Freedom of Information Act, Kaufman focuses on the presumed need to contain USSR aggression that quickly undercut the antitrust case. An incipient crisis in Iran--threatening the Continent's off supplies and allowing Soviet penetration-induced Truman to make Justice's suit a civil rather than criminal matter. Likewise, during the Arab-Israeli conflict that closed the Suez Canal, Eisenhower, at State Department urging, encouraged the multinational oil companies to cooperate in the interests of national security. This sort of collusive action in restraint of trade was precisely what prosecutors had in mind when seeking indictments in the first place. But, overtaken by events that left the oil majors in control of key supply sources, they could only haggle about Stateside marketing operations. Almost half this slim volume is given over to an appendix of original documents, primarily Justice Department memorandums on the pre-OPEC cartel. While the book sheds light on a generally overlooked aspect of petroleum-industry history, it's essentially of interest to specialists.

Pub Date: April 1, 1978


Page Count: -

Publisher: Greenwood Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1978