Almunia Aide Says EU Oil Raids Based on ‘Decent Information’

The European Union wouldn’t have conducted raids in its probe of manipulation of oil benchmarks without “potentially decent information,” said a senior aide to EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia.

Information from the industry was analyzed by regulators before last month’s raids on Royal Dutch Shell Plc, BP Plc, Statoil ASA and Platts, Cecilio Madero, the EU’s deputy director-general for antitrust, said in Brussels today. The EU is currently reviewing “thousands of pages” of documents from the raids, he said.

The probe, which extends to undisclosed crude-derived products and biofuels, underscores how pricing in some energy markets lacks the transparency of financial products such as stocks and U.S. corporate bonds. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission opened an investigation that mirrors the EU review, two people familiar with the matter said.

To decide whether to open a formal case or drop the matter “takes time,” said Madero, who is two ranks below Almunia in the European Commission’s hierarchy and who manages the antitrust section that led the raids. “We are now checking” the information available, he said.

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.

Platts has not been accused of any wrongdoing and is cooperating fully with the commission’s review, spokeswoman Kathleen Tanzy said by e-mail.

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

The EU probe marks the third time global pricing benchmarks have drawn the regulators’ scrutiny in the past year following investigations into bank manipulation of the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, and ISDAFix, the benchmark for the $379 trillion swaps market.

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