F.T.C. Clears Exxon Mobil’s Acquisition of Pioneer Natural Resources

The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday approved Exxon Mobil’s acquisition of Pioneer Natural Resources as long as Exxon excludes Pioneer’s chief executive from its board.

The $60 billion deal between the two Texas companies, which may become final as early as this week, would produce the dominant oil and gas producer in the Permian Basin, the country’s largest oil field, which is in Texas and New Mexico. Exxon’s purchase of Pioneer is one of several large mergers and acquisitions in the oil and gas industry in recent years.

The F.T.C. accused Pioneer’s chief executive, Scott Sheffield, of colluding with officers of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies to control global oil production and prices.

“Mr. Sheffield’s past conduct makes it crystal clear that he should be nowhere near Exxon’s boardroom,” Kyle Mach, deputy director of the commission’s Bureau of Competition, said in a statement. “American consumers shouldn’t pay unfair prices at the pump simply to pad a corporate executive’s pocketbook.”

The F.T.C. said Mr. Sheffield had “sought to align oil production across the Permian basin” with OPEC and its allies through his public statements, and in messages to and personal meetings with other oil executives. The commission said he exchanged “hundreds of text messages” with representatives and officials of the cartel discussing the oil market, prices and production.

Mr. Sheffield has long been a leader of the U.S. oil industry as an early explorer of shale deposits in Texas. He also pushed federal lawmakers to end a ban on oil exports, an effort that succeeded during the Obama administration.

Exxon said that it had agreed not to add Mr. Sheffield to its board. Exxon said the F.T.C.’s allegations against Mr. Sheffield “are entirely inconsistent with how we do business.”

Pioneer Natural Resources disputed the commission’s accusations, saying Mr. Sheffield had never sought to collude with other oil producers.

“We disagree and are surprised,” Pioneer said in a statement. “During Mr. Sheffield’s career, it was neither the intent nor an effect of his communications to circumvent the laws and principles protecting market competition.”

The company noted that from 2019 to 2023 Pioneer more than doubled the amount of oil it produced in the United States, helping to bring down energy prices.

Mr. Sheffield declined to comment beyond Pioneer’s statement.

Shares of Exxon and Pioneer were up about 1 percent on Thursday morning.

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