(Bloomberg) -- Former Pioneer Natural Resources Co. Chief Executive Officer Scott Sheffield says federal regulators mischaracterized facts and wrongly vilified him in saying he tried to collude with OPEC to prop up crude prices.

Sheffield, a key figure in the rise of the US shale industry, filed a request Tuesday with the Federal Trade Commission asking the agency to vacate its proposed consent order for Exxon Mobil Corp.’s $60 billion takeover of Pioneer.

The FTC examined the phones of Pioneer executives, but couldn’t find anything unusual, Sheffield said in an interview. “They went off on this wild goose chase in regard to me and basically used me as a scapegoat.”

Earlier this month, the FTC said it would not sue to block Exxon’s takeover of Pioneer, provided that Sheffield be barred from the supermajor’s board. The agency had said it found evidence Sheffield tried to communicate with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and others about oil pricing and output. 

The FTC said Tuesday that it stands by its allegations.

“There is no question that Mr. Sheffield publicly urged Texas oil producers to limit production, all while having regular, private back-and-forth communications with senior OPEC representatives over a period of years,” FTC spokesperson Douglas Farrar said. 

Sheffield said in a separate emailed statement that the FTC’s move “publicly and unjustifiably vilifying me will have a chilling effect on the ability of business leaders in any sector of our economy to address shareholder demands and to exercise their constitutionally protected right to advocate for their industries.”

The FTC was “straining” to find a reason to criticize Exxon’s deal for Pioneer, Sheffield’s lawyers wrote in the 23-page filing to the agency. Sheffield was examined under oath for four hours by the regulator on April 9 as part of its six-month investigation into the merger “but did not ask questions about his communications and gave him no opportunity to explain them,” according to the filing.

Sheffield’s lawyers refute the FTC’s claim that he exchanged hundreds of text messages with OPEC officials.

He had sent one text message to an OPEC official, but that was to connect former OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo with the Texas Railroad Commission “as part of an official government proceeding,” according to the filing. The others were “blast text messages” sending public information such as news stories to many recipients, Sheffield’s lawyers wrote.

(Updates with comment from FTC.)

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