PGA Tour Alleges Saudi Arabia is willing to Comply with Discovery “When it Benefits their Interests”
Last week, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (“KSA”) filed an amicus brief on behalf of its Public Investment Fund (“PIF”) in the LIV v. PGA Tour lawsuit. Among other arguments, the KSA asserted that Yasir Al-Rumayyan – the governor of the Saudi Public Investment Fund (“PIF”) – should not be subject to depositions since he is a “sitting minister of the Saudi government.”
As The Guardian reported, this classification of Al-Rumayyan was met with anger by Premier League clubs, who had previously demanded an emergency meeting after PIF was given the green light to buy an 80% stake in Newcastle United in 2021. At the time, Premier League clubs insisted that they were given “legally binding assurances” that the Saudi state would not have control of the club. In the amicus brief, however, the Saudis expressly state that “PIF is a part of the government of Saudi Arabia.”
This evening, the PGA Tour filed its reply to the Saudi’s amicus brief and mentioned these inconsistent classifications, rehashed their argument that the commercial activity exception to the Foreign Soverign Immunities Act applies to PIF, and cited a high-profile 2021 case involving a former Saudi official and a subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund on page 13 of their reply. The discovery in that case, the PGA Tour says, proves that PIF is both willing and able to disclose confidential information in US courts "when it benefits their interests."
During the discovery process of that case, the PGA Tour points out that the Saudi Public Investment Fund, through its wholly owned subsidiary, turned over "due diligence and audit reports," as well as documents related to their internal deliberations. These are the same type of documents and information, the PGA Tour asserts, the Public Investment Fund now says they cannot turn over in the LIV litigation because it would violate Saudi law.
In short, the PGA Tour is claiming that the Saudis are picking and choosing when to turn over information and comply with discovery obligations in US courts. When it "benefits their interests," they are allegedly willing and able to turn over information. When they are the subject of the PGA Tour’s tortious interference lawsuit, however, they are not.
Although no decision has come down yet and it cannot be said with 100% certainty, Judge Beth Labson Freeman is widelyexpected to keep in place Judge Susan van Keulen’s ruling which originally ordered the Public Investment Fund and Al-Rumayyan to comply with discovery. Assuming she does, the lawyers will once again be busy, as the deadline to complete document discovery in the antitrust case is March 30.