European Commission Widens Oil Price Manipulation Investigation

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The European Commission (EC) widened its investigation regarding oil price manipulation in the region from three major companies to include a smaller niche trading house, according to a report from Reuters.

European Commission Widens Oil Price Manipulation Investigation

Sources familiar with the action of the European Commission cited that regulators are investigating Argos Energies, a Dutch trading house. The company is an independent player in the Western European energy market and serves as a wholesaler and provides logistics services for oil products in Belgium, France, Germany, and Switzerland.

EC inspectors visited Argos Energies and requested some information. Inspectors were seen at the premises of the company on Friday. The company did not provide any comment regarding the action of the commission.

European Commission Raids Offices

Last Tuesday, EC authorities raided the offices of BP plc (NYSE:BP) (LON:BP), Royal Dutch Shell plc (ADR) (NYSE:RDS.A) (NYSE:RDS.B), and Statoil ASA(ADR) (NYSE:STO).

According to the EC, its officials are conducting unannounced inspections at several companies in London, the Netherlands, and Norway due to allegations that some companies “colluded in reporting distorted prices to a price reporting agency [PRA] to manipulate the published prices for a number of oil and biofuel products.” Authorities cited that there is a possibility that the alleged conspiracy had been going on since 2002, which has a huge impact on oil prices and “potentially harming final consumers.”

Royal Dutch Shell plc (ADR) (NYSE:RDS.A) (NYSE:RDS.B) and BP plc (NYSE:BP) (LON:BP) released  statements confirming the on-going investigation regarding its trading practices. The companies are cooperating with the authorities.

In a statement, Statoil ASA(ADR) (NYSE:STO) cited that authorities are investigating its alleged involvement in anti-competitive agreements with other companies and/or a possible violation of Article 53 of the European Economic Area (market manipulation).

The EC also raided the office of Platts, a leading agency in London that provides benchmark prices for energy, petrochemicals, metals and agriculture products. Authorities reviewed its price-assessment process. Dan Tanz, editorial director of Platts said, “Market participation and liquidity are unchanged.”

Meanwhile, EC authorities also requested some information from Neste Oil Corporation (HEL:NES1V). “We will naturally cooperate with this request and provide the information requested to assist the European Commission in its investigation,” said Matti Lehmus, executive vice president, Oil Products and Renewables of the company.

The European Commission wants to find out if the energy companies conspired to distort the prices of crude, refined oil products, and ethanol trading during the Platts market-on-close (MOC) system.

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