Judge rules PIF, officials must comply with depositions in New York City
The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia and its governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, are on the defensive again, following a ruling Thursday by a U.S. District Court judge upholding a motion to compel both to submit to discovery in the anti-trust case filed last year against the PGA Tour.
PIF and Al-Rumayyan, who were added as co-defendants when the Tour filed its counterclaim against LIV Golf last September, tried to use sovereign immunity and jurisdictional claims to quash the original subpoenas to compel discovery, but a magistrate judge denied that motion and Judge Beth Labson Freeman upheld that ruling.
“PIF argues that the magistrate judge failed to identify any ‘direct effect’ in the United States flowing from PIF’s conduct abroad rather than LIV’s conduct,” Labson Freeman ruled. “This argument simply ignores the magistrate judge’s express findings regarding the disruption to the Tour’s contractual relationships with its players resulting from PIF’s conduct in founding, funding, and participating in LIV’s operations.”
Labson Freeman did strike down the magistrate judge’s ruling that the depositions of Al-Rumayyan and other PIF officials take place in Saudi Arabia. Attorneys for the Tour balked at that, citing personal safety issues for those who may be seen as critical of the Saudi government. Instead, she ruled the depositions must take place in New York City.
Labson Freeman cited nine trips to New York City by Al-Rumayyan since January 2021, including “inviting LIV CEO Greg Norman to attend an Aramco event in New York City in October 2021.” Al-Rumayyan also attended last year’s LIV event in Bedminster, N.J.
“It seems disingenuous for PIF and [Al-Rumayyan] to argue that [Al-Rumayyan’s] trips to New York City were social when he was attending golf events, considering that PIF was developing a golf league through LIV,” the ruling read. “It is not as if [Al-Rumayyan] traveled to New York City solely to take in a Broadway show, see an exhibit at the Met, or go shopping on Fifth Avenue.”
Attorneys for PIF – which owns 93 percent of LIV Golf – and Al-Rumayyan notified the court their plans to appeal the ruling in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and have requested a stay of discovery until the appeals court can rule. The PIF and Al-Rumayyan have also asked the court to bifurcate the counterclaim from the original lawsuit.
Labson Freeman has a case management conference scheduled for Friday at 4 p.m. ET. (Click here for update.)
On Thursday, an arbitration panel in the United Kingdom ruled in favor of the DP World Tour in a similar dispute with players who joined LIV Golf and had been fined by the European tour for violating that circuit’s conflicting event release regulations.