CFTC Fines Norway's Statoil, Citing Market Manipulation -- Update

By Sarah Kent Features Dow Jones Newswires

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission said Tuesday that it fined Norway's Statoil ASA $4 million for attempting to manipulate energy markets in 2011.

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The state-backed oil giant tried to influence the price of a key benchmark for propane between October and November 2011 to benefit its market positions after it saw significant losses in its gas-liquids unit that year, the CFTC said.

The regulator said the company tried to prop up the price of the Argus Far East Index, which is used to price propane in the Asia-Pacific region, when it became clear the market wasn't moving in the direction traders had expected. The moves were intended to benefit Statoil's positions held in swaps cleared through the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Statoil said Tuesday that it "cannot give details outside what has been published in the settlement order. We have worked cooperatively with the CFTC to resolve this matter."

The CFTC said it discovered the attempted manipulation through emails sent by Statoil traders.

Many of the world's biggest oil producers also trade significant volumes of oil, natural gas and related products in both physical and paper markets. That's prompted periodic complaints that they have an outsize influence on markets and prices, but policing the sector has proved challenging.

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In 2013, European Commission officials raided the offices of Statoil and rivals Royal Dutch Shell PLC and BP PLC, looking for evidence of manipulation of the oil-price benchmark going back as far as 2002. The probe closed in 2015 without action.

"Statoil has, since the inspection in May 2013, maintained that the company has not participated in any form of price manipulation," the company said then.

Write to Sarah Kent at sarah.kent@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 14, 2017 13:47 ET (18:47 GMT)