Price-fixing probes haven’t been confined to European markets. BP agreed to pay $303 million in October 2007 to settle U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission allegations relating to claims of market manipulation. In January 2009 a BP unit, Houston-based BP America Inc., agreed to pay $52 million to propane buyers who accused it of trying to monopolize the supply of gas flowing through a Texas pipeline.
In April 2012, Optiver Holding BV and three employees agreed to pay $14 million to settle market-manipulation allegations by U.S. regulators. The Dutch proprietary-trading firm used a high-frequency trading program called the “Hammer” in 2007 to affect the settlement prices of crude, heating oil and gasoline traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange. As part of the settlement, Optiver didn’t admit or deny wrongdoing.
Shell, Europe’s biggest oil company, said it’s “currently assisting” the commission in an inquiry into trading activities and that the company is cooperating, without giving further details.
“BP is one of the companies that is subject to an investigation that was announced earlier today by the European Commission,” BP spokesman Robert Wine said in an e-mail yesterday. “We are cooperating fully with the investigation and unable to comment further at this time.”
Total SA declined to comment and Eni SpA couldn’t immediately be reached.
Exxon Mobil Corp.’s European offices have not been visited by regulators in relation to the inquiry, said Alan Jeffers, a spokesman for the Irving, Texas-based company. Exxon has oil and gas wells from Ireland to the Black Sea, and also refines crude into fuels and operates chemical plants and filling stations across the continent.
Chevron Corp. wasn’t immediately able to comment, Kurt Glaubitz, a spokesman, said in a telephone interview. San Ramon, California-based Chevron, the world’s third-largest energy company by market value, operates oil and gas wells in the North Sea and is exploring shale formations in Poland, Romania, Lithuania and Bulgaria.
Other North American companies with operations in Europe that said they had not been contacted by investigators in the probe include Occidental Petroleum Corp., ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil Corp. and Apache Corp. in the U.S., and Talisman Energy Inc. in Canada.