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FTC to investigate gasoline markets for potential price fixing

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The Federal Trade Commission has told members of Congress that it has started an investigation of the oil and gas industry for anti-competitive conduct and potential price ma­nipu­la­tion.

After several months of sharp swings in oil prices, the FTC will investigate gasoline markets. While collusion or price fixing are matters for the Justice Department, the FTC can impose civil penalties on companies that manipulate the prices of petroleum products.

“I am not convinced that these price increases were necessary or reflected true market conditions,” Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said in a statement. “And the high profits in the oil industry only increase my concerns that West Virginians are paying more at the pump while the big companies are getting richer.”

Separately, Goldman Sachs received a $40,000 slap on the wrist from the ICE Futures exchange in London for “disorderly trading” of crude oil contracts. The exchange said that on Jan. 28 a Goldman Sachs trader had placed “several large market orders .. in quick succession” and caused “price spikes” in the difference between Brent and West Texas Intermediate, benchmark crude oil of two different qualities.

ICE said that its conduct committee had examined e-mails between Goldman Sachs and its client and that it “found no evidence of intentional ma­nipu­la­tion of the market,” but the exchange said the purchases were still a violation “of a serious nature.”

Separately, Goldman Sachs received a $40,000 slap on the wrist from the ICE Futures exchange in London for “disorderly trading” of crude oil contracts. The exchange said that on Jan. 28 a Goldman Sachs trader had placed “several large market orders ... in quick succession” and caused “price spikes” in the difference between Brent and West Texas Intermediate, benchmark crude oil of two different qualities.

ICE said its conduct committee had examined e-mails between Goldman Sachs and its client and that it “found no evidence of intentional ma­nipu­la­tion of the market,” but the exchange said the purchases were still a violation “of a serious nature.”

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