The U.S. Federal Trade Commission on Thursday issued a final rule to fight oil market manipulation, saying such fraudulent conduct can have wide-ranging ramifications throughout the U.S. economy.
The agency said its rule will prohibit fraud or deceit in wholesale petroleum markets and omissions of material information that is likely to distort petroleum markets.
This new rule will allow us to crack down on fraud and manipulation that can drive up prices at the pump, said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. We will police the oil markets -- and if we find companies that are manipulating the markets, we will go after them.
The rule applies to the sale or purchase of crude oil, gasoline or petroleum distillates, the FTC said.
Wrongdoers face civil fines of up to $1 million a day per violation. The rule takes effect on November 4.
Violations include false public announcements of planned pricing or petroleum output decisions, false statistical or data reporting, and so-called wash sales intended to disguise the actual liquidity of a market or the price of a particular oil product.
The prices of petroleum products significantly affect the daily lives of American consumers and the daily operations of American businesses, the FTC said.
Because fraudulent or deceptive conduct within wholesale petroleum markets injects false information into the market process, it distorts market data and thus undermines the ability of consumers and businesses to make purchase and sales decisions congruent with their economic objectives, the agency said.
Market sources have said U.S. cash products traders often attempt to influence price indexes, like the Platts benchmark, by using multiple low-volume trades in order to get favorable terms on larger supply deals benchmarked to those indexes.
Cash product traders reacted to the FTC announcement with skepticism.
I'm all for getting rid of any market manipulation, if there is any, said one trader. How the regulations are going to achieve it, I'm not sure.
Another cash market dealer said: Well, I have not seen the full details but to be honest one would have thought they should have been doing this sort of policing already. Like all of these agencies, none of them appears to be doing what is expected of them.
The FTC said the rule will prevent the same types of fraudulent or deceptive market manipulation practices that are fought by the Commodity Futures Trading