In a filing to California federal judge Beth Labson Freeman on Monday evening, attorneys for the PGA Tour warned they will seek a default order against LIV Golf-backer Public Investment Fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (PIF) and its governor, Yasir Othman Al-Rumayyan, unless they “timely respond” to counterclaims. A default order would be a judgment in the PGA Tour’s favor and a game-changer in the case.
The PGA Tour, which LIV and several golfers have sued on antitrust grounds, is suing LIV, PIF and Al-Rumayyan for tortious interference. The PGA Tour claims the three defendants falsely informed golfers they could lawfully breach their PGA Tour contracts.
As the PGA Tour tells it, PIF and Al-Rumayyan “have tried everything possible to duck service” in order to “stonewall discovery.” The PGA Tour would like to question Al-Rumayyan under oath about PIF’s investment and guidance of LIV, and likely also about related issues, such as how political controversies involving the Saudi government impact PIF’s business opportunities. PIF, court documents say, has about $676 billion in assets and invests in numerous companies, including those that sometimes face litigation. Whether Al-Rumayyan, who holds the government title of “minister,” can truthfully answer questions under oath without complicating his duties in Saudi Arabia is unknown.
Monday’s filing asserts that attorneys for PIF and Al-Rumayyan have been served court documents “in multiple ways,” including through their attorneys. The PGA Tour also claims to have served PIF “at its headquarters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with Arabic translations of the summonses and Amended Counterclaims” on March 19, and that the documents were “signed for” by a person at the facility. Whether PIF and Al-Rumayyan concur with this characterization remains to be seen.
The PGA Tour filing also expresses frustration at the service problems because, in the tour’s view, PIF and Al-Rumayyan instigated and supported the lawsuit. PIF and Al-Rumayyan allegedly “have been deeply involved in this lawsuit since its inception, authorizing LIV to file suit in this Court and controlling and funding LIV’s ongoing conduct of this litigation.”
The PGA Tour asks that Judge Freeman permit service on Al-Rumayyan through two email addresses and, for both Al-Rumayyan and PIF, through email and first-class mail on their attorneys. PIF and Al-Rumayyan will have the opportunity to rebut the PGA Tour’s arguments.
The more the parties disagree about discovery, particularly on such basic matters as whether or not someone has been served, the more likely the January 8, 2024, trial date will be delayed.