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After the Libor rigging scandal in 2012, authorities have sharpened their act, deeply scrutinizing company financial records, and implementing stricter regulations. This has led to a new investigation which has led European authorities to raid the offices of Shell, BP, and Statoil, in what is suspected to be one of the largest international actions since Libor.
The European Commission admitted that it carried out surprise raids on the offices, two in EU member states, and one in a non-EU country, as part of an investigation into the oil majors over allegations of anti-competitive agreements, which led to oil price manipulation.
The Commission stated that “officials carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of several companies active in and providing services to the crude oil, refined oil products and biofuels sectors.
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The Commission has concerns that the companies may have colluded in reporting distorted prices to a price reporting agency to manipulate the published prices for a number of oil and biofuel products.”
Statoil has claimed that the entire misunderstanding is related to the Platts price assessment process. Each day during a half-hour period known as the Platts window, the oil pricing agency determines the cash prices by analysing bids, offers, and trades. The system has taken criticism before, through claims that the half hour only gives a very small snapshot of the market, and that the exclusion of trades outside of the time period make the system vulnerable to manipulation.
Platts, Statoil, Shell, and BP have agreed to cooperate with the investigation.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com