Oil-Price Manipulation May Affect Millions, EU Official Says

Millions of people may be affected by the suspected oil-price manipulation being probed by the European Union, according to EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia’s most senior aide.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc, BP Plc, Statoil ASA and Platts, the commodities price reporting company, earlier this month said they are being investigated after the European Commission, the EU’s antitrust authority, conducted raids at the companies’ offices to collect possible evidence of collusion.

The behavior under scrutiny “can potentially affect millions of Europeans,” Alexander Italianer, the EU antitrust watchdog’s top official, said in a May 24 speech in Dublin published on the authority’s website today. “Our goal here is to make sure that these companies have not colluded to manipulate the prices for oil and biofuel products or prevented other companies from participating in the price-assessment process.”

EU antitrust regulators arrived unannounced May 14 at Platts as well as at oil companies in its investigation into possible collusion by traders. Platts, whose U.K. operations at Canary Wharf are in the same building as BP offices, provided data and is cooperating with the inquiry. It continues to publish benchmark prices including North Sea Dated Brent, against which more than half the world’s crude is valued.

Platts, a unit of New York-based McGraw Hill Financial Inc., provides benchmark assessments on physical markets, using data on actual trades and its own editorial judgment. Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with Platts and other companies in providing energy markets news and information.

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