WASHINGTON (AP) — Officials who oversee Saudi Arabia’s tens of billions of dollars in U.S. investments haven’t been shy about flaunting their ties with top American business and political figures, down to wearing MAGA caps as they swing golf clubs alongside former President Donald Trump. But they’ve been silent about many of the details of these relationships.
That’s changing as a result of a federal lawsuit in California pitting the Saudi-owned golf tour upstart LIV against the PGA Tour. A judge, citing what she described as the kingdom’s hands-on management of LIV, found that when it came to the new golf league, Saudi officials and the Saudi government aren’t shielded from U.S. courts the way sovereign nations usually are.
While Saudi Arabia is fighting the decision, insisting U.S. courts have no jurisdiction over its high officials, the ruling means lawyers for the PGA Tour would be able to question top officials about business secrets that the Saudis have held close, such as details of deal-making involving 2024 presidential candidate Trump and others.
U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman found that the Saudis had smacked up against a commercial exception to U.S. laws on sovereign immunity.
Yasir al Rumayyan, appointed under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to manage the oil-rich Saudi government’s $600 billion-plus stockpile of wealth, is “up to his eyeballs” in managing the golf tour, Labson Freeman declared.
The finding follows PGA Tour claims that al Rumayyan himself recruited LIV players, approved LIV contracts and was otherwise the golf league’s decision-maker and manager. Lawyers for Saudi Arabia counter that Rumayyan’s actions were those of an eager investor, not of someone actually running a business.
The case matters beyond the world of golf. Saudi Arabia has been assertive in U.S. business investments and political relationships and could now face court demands for greater transparency and accountability.
The insistence by Saudi officials that U.S. courts have little or no say over their actions is especially sensitive. Last year, the kingdom, with legal backing from the Biden administration, successfully argued that American courts had no authority to try the prince in a lawsuit over the 2018 killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi. U.S. intelligence officials had concluded that aides and other Saudi officials sent by the prince killed Khashoggi. The slaying has opened a lasting rift between the Biden administration and Prince Mohammed, Saudi Arabia’s …read more