US Judge Rejects Immunity Claim, Permitting PGA Tour Subpoenas in Antitrust Suit Against LIV Golf
US Judge Dismisses Immunity Claim in PGA Tour/LIV Golf Antitrust Suit
Last month, the PGA Tour requested to add the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (PIF) and its governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan as co-defendants to a countersuit filed against LIV Golf. In the filing, PGA Tour attorneys claimed that “PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan played an active and central role in orchestrating” breaches to contracts the PGA Tour had with golfers to lure them to LIV Golf.
The dispute began with an antitrust lawsuit that was filed against the Tour last August by a group of players who had been suspended by the circuit for participating in LIV Golf events. In response, the Tour filed a counterclaim, alleging that LIV Golf had interfered with the circuit’s preexisting contracts with players who had joined the breakaway league. Additionally, the Tour subpoenaed the PIF and its governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, for details concerning the formation of the new league and the enlistment of players.
The PGA Tour then countersued, claiming LIV’s alleged interference with PGA players contracts harmed its brand and reputation.
Lawyers representing the Saudi fund asserted that sovereign immunity protects PIF and Al-Rumayyan from producing evidence in US courts. But U.S. District Judge Susan van Keulen ruled in favor of the PGA, rejecting the immunity claim and allowing for the subpoenas to go through.
In her heavily redacted 58-page decision, van Keulen wrote, “It is plain that PIF is not a mere investor in LIV; it is the moving force behind the founding, funding, oversight, and operation of LIV. PIF’s actions are indisputably the type of actions by which a private party engages in trade and traffic or commerce.”
The ruling gives PGA Tour access to information related to LIV’s negotiations with players. It also means that PIF and Al-Rumayyan will be required to provide documents and sit for depositions in the antitrust case.
The trial in the case will not happen until January 2024.
0. “Huge L for LIV Golf as judge rules PGA Tour CAN depose Saudi wealth fund leader!” Golfmagic.com, 17 Feb. 2023, https://www.golfmagic.com/liv-golf/huge-l-liv-golf-judge-rules-pga-tour-can-depose-saudi-wealth-fund-leader
1. “Judge Upholds PGA Tour's Subpoenas for PIF, Al-Rumayyan” Front Office Sports, 17 Feb. 2023, https://frontofficesports.com/judge-upholds-pga-tours-subpoenas-for-pif-al-rumayyan/
2. “Judge dismisses Saudi Arabia's claim of sovereign immunity for PIF” Golf Channel, 17 Feb. 2023, https://www.golfchannel.com/news/judge-dismisses-saudi-arabias-claim-sovereign-immunity-pif
3. “Saudi Fund Boss Ordered to Testify in PGA-LIV Golf Suit” Yahoo! Voices, 17 Feb. 2023, https://www.yahoo.com/now/saudi-fund-ordered-evidence-pga-064408176.html
4. “New, major LIV Golf-PGA Tour legal battle update” msnNOW, 17 Feb. 2023, https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/cycling/new-major-liv-golf-pga-tour-legal-battle-update/ar-AA17D80S