US government committee chairman Richard Blumenthal says Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has “repeatedly refused” to voluntarily cooperate to answer questions about the deal with the PGA Tour, and has now ordered PIF representatives to appear before the committee.
Last updated: 09/13/23 at 9:09 PM
Representatives of the Saudi Public Investment Fund have been ordered to appear before a US government committee investigating the fund’s relationship with the PGA Tour.
The surprise announcement in June that the PGA Tour and PIF were abandoning a bitter legal battle to form a new business entity prompted the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to launch an investigation.
The committee asked the Public Investment Fund and its governor, Yasser Al-Rumayyan – who is also chairman of Newcastle United due to the Public Investment Fund’s majority ownership of the club – to appear before it to answer questions related to the deal.
However, committee chairman Richard Blumenthal said on Wednesday that the sovereign wealth fund had “repeatedly refused” to voluntarily cooperate with this request, and that it had now issued a subpoena.
Blumenthal also revealed that the Public Investment Fund’s lawyer said that Al-Rumayyan was an “inappropriate witness” because he was “a minister bound by the laws of the Kingdom.”
This is the second time that Public Investment Fund lawyers describe Al-Rumayyan as a Saudi minister. The English Premier League said that the Public Investment Fund provided it with legally binding guarantees that the Saudi state would not control Newcastle when the fund led the takeover of the club in October 2021.
When Al-Rumayyan was first mentioned as a Saudi minister in March, it led to calls from human rights group Amnesty International for the Premier League to investigate. The League refused to comment on the matter.
Blumenthal called PIF’s involvement in a business deal with the PGA Tour a “classic attempt” to launder money in the sport.
He said information about the PIF’s investments in US companies was “quite limited,” and added: “In short, as I also wrote to Governor Al-Rumayyan on August 16, the PIF cannot have it both ways.
“If it seeks to reap the benefits of commercial engagement with U.S. markets and entities, it must be subject to the laws and oversight of Congress.”
A letter to Jason Chung, senior director and head of office at USSA International LLC, a wholly-owned unit of PIF, issued a summons to appear before the committee on October 13.
PIF lawyers wrote to the committee on August 23 saying they remained prepared to provide a factual briefing on the agreement with the PGA Tour in time for September.
However, the letter notes the broad nature of the investigation, and reiterates that as minister Al-Rumayyan cannot participate “in any public hearing that is part of an open-ended investigation into the interests and investments of the Public Investment Fund in the past, present and future.”
The letter also said that efforts to compel Al-Rumayyan to appear would be “unprecedented,” adding: “To our knowledge, no congressional committee has ever used a mandatory process to compel a foreign official to attend and testify.
He added, “The subcommittee’s unprecedented effort to force (Al-Rumayyan) to appear and testify will not only upset the delicate balance between foreign relations and international diplomacy, but will also harm the powers of the executive authority.”