Lawyers for firms suing Norway over lost pipeline tariffs have hit back at the government in a dispute over expenses in one of the most costly trials in the nation’s history.
Norway’s ruling coalition in June criticized plaintiffs, including Allianz SE, for running up court fees of about 65 million kroner ($8 million), saying they were beyond “reasonable resource use” and urged the court not to order it to cover the costs if it loses the trial.
But in a letter to the court, the plaintiffs said Norway’s government had “no basis” on which to claim the costs were higher than necessary.
“Preparations for the case have been long and extensive,” the lawyers for three of the companies wrote in a July 16 letter obtained by Bloomberg. The case has also been “complex” and required comprehensive documentation that has been “very hard to obtain.”
The plaintiffs point to the fact that they have also charged less per client than the government had to pay its lawyers.
The two sides are each disputing the other’s use of consultants. The plaintiffs want the government to explain which it paid one consultant for the trial 1 million kroner to analyze the economic consequences of the decision to cut tariffs back in 2013.
“It’s hard to comprehend that this type of analysis wasn’t done ahead of the decision,” they said. “It has to be assumed that the Petroleum and Energy Ministry and its subsidiaries have the necessary expertise and resources to perform this work themselves.”
Companies owned by Allianz, Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund, Canadian pension funds and other international investors, sued Norway last year over surprise tariff cuts that they say will reduce their income from gas transportation by $1.8 billion by 2028. The investors bought a 44 percent stake in Gassled, the pipeline network, in 2011 and 2012, from oil companies including state-controlled Statoil ASA.
A ruling is expected at the end of this month or early October after proceedings ended June 16.
The government’s lawyers criticized the plaintiffs for requesting significant amounts of documentation of “partly marginal relevance,” inflating expenses, the letter showed. They said there was no justification for the plaintiffs’ expenses being almost three times those of the government, or 19,000 billed hours, which is than 11 years in full-time equivalents.