As energy commissioner, Piebalgs joined weekly meetings with fellow members of the EU executive arm, including Neelie Kroes, Almunia’s predecessor as competition chief.
Kroes’s spokesman Ryan Heath declined to immediately comment on whether she had looked into potential oil-price manipulation during her tenure. She is now a commissioner responsible for telecommunications policy.
Piebalgs, a Latvian politician, said the EU’s investigation into rigging of Libor, opened in 2011, changed perceptions about the reliability of benchmarks.
Still, he said he has “not heard” that the commission is systematically investigating benchmarks.
The oil probe may have been triggered by a complaint and “does not mean necessarily that Platts’s credibility is under threat,” he said. The commission may be reacting to someone arguing “that the prices are not being fairly treated.”
Almunia has warned that manipulating benchmarks such as Libor and oil reference prices risks “systemic damage.”
The oil investigation is one of several by the Brussels- based commission into the financial industry. Almunia today accused 13 of the world’s biggest investment banks of colluding to curb competition in the $10 trillion credit derivatives industry. Some of these are also targeted in the EU probe into bank-rate manipulation, Almunia said.
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