Edwards defends Sheffield from FTC

Odessa oilman says Pioneer Natural Resources founder unfairly targeted

Pioneer Natural Resources Midland headquarters office is shown on Jan. 13, 2021, in Midland, Texas. (Odessa American File Photo)

Odessa oilman Kirk Edwards has joined over 60 people on the Linkedin social media platform who stringently disapprove of the Federal Trade Commission’s prohibition of Pioneer Natural Resources founder Scott Sheffield from the ExxonMobil Board of Directors now that Pioneer and Exxon have merged in a $60-billion deal.

The FTC said Sheffield couldn’t serve because he colluded with OPEC and OPEC-Plus to potentially raise crude oil prices, but Edwards and numerous others say Sheffield’s involvement was no different than that of many American independent oil company executives who at that time were saying the United States was producing too much oil and needed to slow down and cut back.

The FTC approved the merger after ExxonMobil agreed to comply.

“It’s time for a boil-your-blood post as all of us are finding out about the FTC’s greenlighting of Exxon’s buying of Pioneer Natural Resources, which is great,” Edwards said. “But here it comes: the FTC said Exxon could not have Pioneer Chief Executive Officer Scott Sheffield on their board because of comments Sheffield made back in 2020 in regard to oil markets or they would not approve the deal.”

Sheffield founded Pioneer in 1997 and retired from the company in 2016, but he returned as president and CEO in 2019, was CEO from 2021 to 2023 and continued to serve on Pioneer’s board.

The FTC alleged that through public statements, text messages, in-person meetings, WhatsApp conversations and other communications Sheffield sought to align oil production across the Permian Basin with OPEC-Plus.

Pioneer, which had a major presence in Midland, said from Dallas that it disagreed with the allegations but would not impede closing the merger.

“Sheffield and Pioneer believe the FTC’s complaint reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the U.S. and global oil markets and misreads the nature and intent of Mr. Sheffield’s actions,” the company said.

Announced last October and closed May 3, the deal greatly expands Exxon’s presence in the Permian Basin.

Pioneer’s over 850,000 net acres in the Midland Basin are now combined with Exxon’s 570,000 net acres in the Delaware and Midland basins, National Public Radio reported.

Edwards said the period the FTC referred to was during the outbreak of COVID and Saudi Arabia’s simultaneous flooding of the global market with an extra 2 million barrels of oil per day to demonstrate its control.

“Oil prices went negative, drilling rigs started getting stacked and folks were being laid off,” Edwards said. “Scott Sheffield was man enough at the time to sound the alarm publicly and this is what he gets? The Biden administration and government officials talking about him trying to collude with OPEC? Give me a break. Saudi controls this market and always will.

“No North American independent or major oil company can ever have that much power and they know it. So why the animus toward Sheffield? And does this now carry over to every CEO in the energy industry who dared speak out to defend our industry during our moments of crisis in 2020 and 2021?

“Do companies like Chesapeake, which is taking gas off the market today because of the glut in the U.S., now get on their target list?” he asked. “Or how about cattle owners complaining about foreign beef being imported into the country?

“It is just hard for me to believe the weaponization of this administration toward the energy industry and especially great folks like Donald Trump and Scott Sheffield. You can definitely see a pattern.

“So here is the moral to this story. Grow your company and be successful, but if you ever want to go public or sell out make sure you have only made positive comments to the current administration as clearly it can and will be held against you from then on.

“God Bless Texas, our energy industry and folks like Scott Sheffield who will step up and defend us.”