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U.S. Probes Insider Trading Tied To OPEC+ Oil Deal

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is investigating whether non-American traders had obtained insider information about Russia’s position in the OPEC+ negotiations last month, which they may have later illegally used to bet on crude oil futures, Bloomberg reported, citing two people with direct knowledge of the issue.  

Under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, it is illegal to profit on the markets from leaked government information.  

The CFTC probe was opened before Monday’s 300% price crash of the WTI Crude May futures contract, which slipped into negative territory for the first time ever, according to Bloomberg’s sources. 

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The regulator’s investigation is focused on whether the traders involved had obtained non-public information about Russia’s position during the one-month long oil price war with Saudi Arabia after the collapse of the previous OPEC+ deal in early March.

Between early March and early April, Russia and Saudi Arabia were in an oil price war that further depressed oil prices already hit by the demand collapse in the pandemic, after Moscow refused to back a total 1.5 million bpd cut from OPEC+. A month later, the Saudis and the Russians, along with the other members of the OPEC+ group, agreed to remove 9.7 million bpd from the market in May and June to try to counter the growing glut.

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As per Bloomberg’s sources, the individuals under investigation are not Russian government officials and do not have a prior history of trading futures. One of the sources, however, told Bloomberg that the entities that had placed the crude oil price wagers employ people with ties to the Kremlin.

The UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has also opened an investigation into suspicious crude futures trades for the same reason—suspecting that non-public information about Russia’s oil strategy and discussions with other oil-producing countries may have been leaked to traders who may have later used it to illegally bet on crude prices.

“We saw the reports and we don’t know how credible they are,” Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, said on Thursday, as quoted by Reuters.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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