Holder urged to investigate price-fixing by oil companies

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wants the Justice Department to investigate whether alleged price fixing in the European Union by oil giants Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Statoil spilled over into the United States.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman aired his concerns about the recent probe by EU officials into potential oil price manipulation in a Friday letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.

Wyden said price fixing in commodity markets “has been an area of abuse within the U.S. in the past,” noting the Enron power market scandal.

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“It is critically important to determine whether or not similar efforts have been made to manipulate U.S. oil indices by these firms or others,” he added.

EU investigators raided the European offices of Statoil, BP and Shell earlier this week. The officials are looking into whether the firms submitted false information to Platts, a price-reporting organization owned by McGraw-Hill Financial.

As chairman of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, Holder is charged with monitoring oil and gas markets, Wyden noted.

The Oregon Democrat said the matter deserves a closer look because U.S. companies rely on London-based Brent crude oil indices and other contracts when buying oil.

“Efforts to manipulate the European oil indices, if proven, may have already impacted U.S. consumers and businesses, because of the interrelationships among world oil markets and hedging practices,” Wyden said.