US court backs Conoco’s $8.7bn award for seized Venezuelan assets

Judge’s ruling upholds a 2019 decision by the World Bank awarding billions to US oil giant over asset expropriation.

An oilfield worker walks next to drilling rigs at an oil well operated by Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA.
The World Bank's International Centre for the Settlement of International Disputes awarded Conoco $8.75bn over the 2007 expropriation of three of its oil projects in Venezuela [File: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]

A United States court has upheld an international tribunal’s $8.75bn award to US oil producer ConocoPhillips over the expropriation of its Venezuelan oil assets, granting a default judgement in the case on Friday.

The decision gives the US company new authority to collect on a 2019 award by a World Bank tribunal.

The award includes interest that adds at least $1bn to the amount owed to Conoco.

The World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) awarded Conoco $8.75bn for the 2007 expropriation of three of its oil projects in the country. Conoco had sought up to $30bn for the takeover.

US District Court Judge Carl Nichols found that Venezuela was bound by the terms of the ICSID Convention, and Conoco had properly notified the country of its lawsuit through the US Department of State.

Venezuela’s Ministry of Mines, state-oil firm PDVSA and the Ministry of Information did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The country seized Conoco assets during late President Hugo Chavez’s nationalisations of oil, electricity and steel industries.

ConocoPhillips said it plans “to pursue all available legal avenues to obtain a full and fair recovery”, but did not comment on planned actions.

Conoco previously has used legal seizures of Venezuelan oil assets to enforce its claims. Its share price rose less than 1 percent to $105.24 on a day in which the broader market fell sharply.

Venezuela’s main foreign asset is US-based Citgo Petroleum, an oil refiner that split from its parent in 2019 and has been operating under legal protections from creditors issued by the US Treasury Department.

Source: Reuters