Oil giants raided in price probe

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European authorities have raided offices of oil giants BP, Shell and Statoil in a major cross-border investigation into suspected manipulation of oil prices.

The European Commission (EC) disclosed yesterday it was investigating big oil companies over suspected anti-competitive agreements related to submission of prices to Platts, the world’s leading oil pricing agency and part of McGraw Hill Group.

“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,” the Commission said.

The inspections took place in two EU member states and one non-EU country. “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,” the EC added.

Analysts said it looked to be the largest cross-border probe since the Libor rigging scandal, when some banks were fined for manipulating two interest rate benchmarks – Libor (the London Interbank Offered Rate) and its European euivalent, Euribor.