EU Oil Probe Needs More Transparency, Platts Executive Says

The European Commission’s probe into oil markets needs to be clearer in its objectives, according to Platts, an energy news and price publisher that was among the companies raided last month by investigators.

“I hope very much that in those investigations they can share with us very transparently what is it that they are looking for and who precisely they are looking at,” Jorge Montepeque, Platts’s director of market reporting, said at a conference in Kuala Lumpur today. “We need as much transparency in government action as we need transparency in the actions by the industry.”

European Union antitrust regulators raided the offices of Platts and oil companies BP Plc, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Statoil ASA starting on May 14 to investigate possible price manipulation and collusion by traders. Platts, owned by McGraw Hill Financial, 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.

“One should prove there is a manipulation first and then try to find a solution for the problem if there is one,” Montepeque said.

Vitol’s View

Trading houses including Vitol Group, Glencore Xstrata Plc and Gunvor Group Ltd., which aren’t themselves under investigation, were asked last month to provide information to regulators, according to three people familiar with the situation, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. The companies are assisting the commission with the inquiry, the people said.

“We feel the industry is doing an open, transparent job,” Ian Taylor, Vitol’s chief executive officer, said in Kuala Lumpur today. “Let’s get the question right first and identify the problem,” instead of proposing more regulation, he said. The trader generated revenue of $303 billion last year.

Platts has said rules drafted by global regulators to safeguard against manipulation of financial benchmarks may make markets less transparent, because oil traders would stop submitting their transactions to price-reporting companies.

When asked whether Platts and its peers should be regulated, Montepeque said: “The role of press is actually to open up and to speak freely, without any fear of retribution if there is something going on.”

Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with Platts and other companies in providing energy markets news and information.

Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the European Commission in Brussels, couldn’t immediately be reached by phone and didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

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